Females need deep female friendships. That’s why Elizabeth Inpyn is on the podcast today, not because she’s an athlete, sports nutritionist and coach, but because she’s Tina’s best friend. They talk about finding friends, what makes a friendship special and why you don’t have to be close physically to have a meaningful relationship.
As Elizabeth says, “There’s value in proximity, but it doesn’t take proximity to have a valuable friendship.”
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Friendships don’t just happen. Elizabeth observes, “Your friendships are your responsibility. So sitting back and thinking this might happen on its own or sitting back and going, ‘I don’t really have any close friendships,’ that’s on you.” But how do you go about forging those relationships? She suggests looking for women whom you admire, and who have other female friendships, because clearly they have the ability to make deep connections. And while you need to have something in common, she’s found that “differences are what really add value to our lives.” Tina feels the same way. “It’s kind of fun to find some common ground with people when you don’t have that easy win of like, ‘Let’s talk about running,’ if nothing else.”
Becoming friends with someone who has different interests from yours not only gives you the opportunity to learn something new, it also allows you to be more fully yourself. Tina recalls that she went to Maui and, “No one knew or gave a crap about what I did in my job and I kind of loved being able to just have these conversations with people without them asking about my work, or my running, or my whatever.” Elizabeth agrees. “You and I, we talk running, or we talk podcasting, or nutrition, or whatever, but at no point in time do I have to put on my armor to come and sit with you. I don’t have to be Elizabeth that is X, Y and Z. I can just be Elizabeth. And I think that the more opportunities we have to really just be, the greater we will be, the things we will discover about ourselves and the contributions that we can make to other women, to our families, to our jobs.”
Once you’ve become friends with someone, what differentiates a more superficial friendship from a deeper one? Elizabeth describes it as “the difference between the check-in friend and the check-back friend.” There are friends you can go out with, have a good time with, and even vent to, but it’s something of a one-way street. In a deeper relationship, your friend won’t just listen to you, she’ll check on you afterwards, and if necessary, hold you accountable.
Another quality of a deep friendship is that you feel safe enough to say the hard things. As Elizabeth tells Tina, “I think that what’s really special about our friendship is you have created an environment that is okay for me to question you and challenge you, and know that you’re still gonna be my friend the next day. If I say something that might hurt your feelings unintentionally, or if I call you out on something, or if I ask you a difficult question, or if I push back on something that you said, I know that that is not going to end our friendship, it’s not going to change your impression of me. You’ve never punished me for being honest, never reprimanded me, or scolded me, or like, given me the silent treatment because I asked you the real hard questions.”
What might be surprising about Tina and Elizabeth’s friendship, given their tight bond, is that they’ve probably spent less than 72 hours together in person. It’s great to have our close friends near us physically, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out that way. It might be, Tina observes, that “Someone doesn’t feel like the people they’re around are right for them and that’s okay; it’s not saying anyone is a bad person, but you have someone further away who you feel a stronger bond with.” All of her closest friends are away from her, but she keeps in touch with them constantly through phone calls and voice memos.
It’s about finding ways to connect, having what Elizabeth describes as a toolbox. “Some friends send each other memes or quotes or pictures. ‘Remember when we did this?’ or ‘Look at this,’ or we share pictures of our families or experiences. ‘Did you listen to this podcast?’ ‘Did you read this book?’ Finding ways to share experiences together even though you’re not having those experiences together is important.”
“Don’t let people tell you that someone you don’t spend a lot of time with can’t be a real friendship connection,” Elizabeth says. She remembers that the first time she and Tina spent time together was when Tina was giving a talk in Berkley. Elizabeth went to see her there, and her brother and father were shocked. “They gave me the, ‘You’ve never met her and you’re driving down to Berkley and you’re gonna like, watch her child??’” So, she says, “For anyone that questions you or pushes back, you can have very real, very important friendships from a long distance. We are years into this now and the beauty is we’re still learning, still growing.”
Jane Fonda talks about female friendships
Please help us spread the word about RED-S / REDs! It’s a common conception that only elite athletes suffer from Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport, but it can affect anyone whose energy output exceeds what they’re taking in, and it can have long-term health consequences, especially on bone health. We have 50+ videos on YouTube, with experts answering questions about all the different aspects of RED-S. Even if you don’t have RED-S, there’s valuable advice there for all athletes, especially about nutrition.
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“Thank you” to Elizabeth! We look forward to hearing your thoughts on the show.