I spend a lot of time coaching or consulting with other women about various aspects of life including building intimacy, feminine power, navigating relationships, rearing children, and more. Almost every woman who I first encounter tells me that they do not have very close relationships with other women or they have just that one female friend.
This post is not intended to explain the importance of women developing relationships with other women. However, this post is intended to offer one way to instill balance and flow in your relationships for fullness.
Starting with you – wherever you are in life – it is fruitful and fulfilling to have at least one woman in three different positions in your life (also called These Three Women):
MENTEE: A woman less-experienced than you who you POUR into.
PEER: A woman similarly-experienced to you who WALKS beside you.
MENTOR: A woman more-experienced than you who IMPARTS into you.
Initially, These Three Women exist in your Circle in a general way. The first course of action is to secure these three. However, as you build your Circle These Three Women will serve in very specific areas in your life.
Mentor. Peer. Mentee.
I have more than one Mentor. One woman is specifically for doctoral research. She imparts into me, but only on graduate school matters. Another woman teaches me how to build legacy and steer teenage sons into adulthood, and nothing else.
I have more than one Peer. I have one girlfriend who is a writer (like me) and we bounce ideas off of each other and hold each other accountable. We are so creatively complementary that we do not currently cross groups (though there was a time that we did.) I have another girlfriend whose life patterns have mirrored mine damn-near to the tee, so we connect together in our careers, motherhood, and new partnerships post-divorce.
I have more than one Mentee. I have young women graduating high school who are just entering the dating scene and lean on me for advice in male/female romantic relationships. I have other female mentees who have asked me to coach them through career choices, academic options, or becoming a first-time mom or wife who are older than me.
When I first identified These Three Women in my life it was simply one mentee, one peer, and one mentor as an intentional effort to this create my Circle. As I became more self-aware and more mature, my Circle expanded.
Value Merit Over Age
These Three Women are not chosen or accepted based on age, but based on ability, worthiness, and/or merit. Sometimes, this criteria yields a certain age, but it is not the hard measure. Different women achieve different milestones at various stages in life. For example, I am in my mid-30s, but I have been a mother longer than most of the women in my Circle’s peer-group. They would not be in my mentor-group for motherhood-related matters even though they are older than me. Do not only make this about age. We are living, evolving beings accomplishing life’s work in different seasons for different reasons.
Seasons & Reasons
Because we are living, evolving beings, allow room for the women in your Circle to move into different groups as we (humans) grow. This is key. There are some relationships (regardless of kind) that are purely seasonal. Let it go when it is over. Embrace it when it starts. However, there are some relationships that progress and digress into other groups, and because we are not always aware of friendship or mentorship evolution we cancel the relationship altogether instead of re-assigning women to a new group within our Circle.
Sometimes, we are aware of this and naturally re-assign, but the other woman is not and she cannot (or could not) understand the “promotion” or “demotion” and that costs you the relationship. It’s okay.
These Three Women (and now you know there can actually be more than three women and more than one woman can be serving in more than one place) are your Circle. So, this is more like These Three (types of) Women. In this example, there is only one circle. Within your Circle, there are these three different groups: mentees, peers, and mentors. Within your groups, there are several networks from colleagues to parenting to sororities, to whatever interest or niche you may have. Women may move within your networks, move within groups, move within your Circle; and a few will depart your Circle altogether. It’s okay!
Group and Network Mobility
A quick anecdote from me to you…
Years ago, I met a woman (let’s call her Kaye) who is now a dear friend to me, but we did not begin this way. Initially, her husband had asked me to meet with her to just talk. I agreed. At that time, I had space (this is another post to discuss later) in my Mentee Group for another person, so she occupied it.
She was only my mentee for a couple of years. Then, she became my friend, my sistah-friend. (There’s levels to this!) From the beginning, I had accounted for her (possible) growth. If she never “got there,” a mentee she would be. But in the event that she no longer needed my pouring and could stand as my friend, I would welcome her. Our relationship has taken many-a evolutions. However, had I only saw her as a person who always needed me to pour into her, our relationship would have likely experienced dissolution rather than progression. Remember to give others room to grow. I am concerned that too many female-to-female friendships end prematurely because at least one of us failed to acknowledge (for whatever reason) that someone can become more than who they were from when they first met each other.
Today, Kaye and I walk beside each other in every facet of life, except two. When it comes to financial security and independence, she is my mentor and I am the mentee. I hush and allow her to impart. When it comes to schooling and education, I am her mentor and she is my mentee. She seeks my counsel and adheres to it. She became financially secure long before I did and has helped me arrive. Her ability and worthiness in this area far exceeds mine. Even though I am financially sound now, she still has more experience. Likewise, we both have aspired careers in education. But, I finished undergrad before she did and completed graduate school while she worked and saved. I have taught in middle schools, high schools, a university, and I am finishing my final year as a home educator. When she has a school/education question or issue, she calls me and sits at my table. We cover each other on financial and educational topics, but everything else we experience in life today–we walk together. I was not angry, bitter, resentful, or jealous when she became richer than me; and neither was she when I became more educated than her.
Kaye is my friend, but she is also my mentor and my mentee, network-pending. She holds a place in my Circle in the three groups and across three networks: sisterhood, education, and finances. Any time we connect I know it will be within one of these networks as these are the areas where we are qualified to access each other. It may not always stay this way, and that’s okay.
A Beautiful Balance
If you design a beautiful balance of pouring into less-experienced women while more-experienced women pour into you + similar-experienced women walking beside you as you walk beside them, you will steadily be full, fulfilled, and feminine. You will be quickened, sharpened, and corrected. You will be esteemed, supported, and comforted. You will learn and grow and become more self-aware. Begin the journey. If you need help getting started, let me know. #thesethreewomen
A special shout-out to my mama who has been the greatest mother and female elder a girl could ask for.
Love, Light, and Circles