23/08/2013 09:00 BST | Updated 22/10/2013 06:12 BST

Female Friendships: What Every Woman Knows but Won't Admit


Behind the hilarious antics of the coked-up, foul-mouthed, bridesmaids-to-be in Kirstin Dunst's new film, Bachelorette, lurk some unpalatable truths. The movie shines a harsh light on women's friendships, showing how they're often riddled with insecurity, jealousy and rivalry.

Girls learn early on that friendship can be used as a weapon. Of all the playground insults "You're not my friend any more" cuts the deepest. Underneath it all, so many of us are still six years old, terrified of being given the cold shoulder, of not being allowed to join in the cool girls' games.

In our teens, we still crave acceptance but the competition becomes fiercer. It's all about being the thinner, more successful with boys...

As we move through life, we continue to compete with our friends. We use them as a benchmark, but not in a good way. I see this so much in my coaching, with successful, ambitious women who are outwardly confident, but are constantly looking for validation, measuring themselves against others' successes, particularly those close to them.

It's hardly surprising, given that there are so many possibilities and opportunities open to them. No woman's path looks the same. As we make different choices to previous generations with regards to marriage, children, careers, we can't help but look to other women and to friends to see if what we're doing is right.

But when we compare we often judge - and women are often the harshest judges of other women. And as soon as we judge another person, we inflict that judgment on ourselves, limiting our potential.

Later in life friendships can enrich us in ways that can be hard to imagine when we're striving to build careers or raise children or juggling both. Children may fly the nest, marriages may fail, but good friends will be there for us through thick and thin. One recently divorced client of mine confessed that her husband's departure had liberated her to more spend time with her close female friends, letting more joy into her life than she had experienced for a decade.

The way we view our friends needs to change - we should see them as allies. And if you have no allies among your friends, you may need to change your friends. Goodbye to the old days of women sticking together through fear and comparing our choices. Hello taking responsibility for our leadership, our way, we want to choose the friends that make us feel good, that can support our decisions and our lives as electric women.

How to nurture friends, not frenemies

Build your tribe - surround yourself with supporters, not critics, whether they're old friends with a shared history or new friends who understand you. Notice how you feel around them and your energy levels after having been with them.

Spend less time with friends who are skeptical about you're doing, this drives you to a place of comparing and self doubt.

Don't judge - we have a nasty habit of judging other women, whether it's body image, profession, wealth, choice of men - this only feeds the level of judgment you receive from others and keeps you stuck.

Don't rely on your partner alone - choose your female friends wisely. In times of need they'll have your back, so build deep connections and invest time in them.

Nikki is a leadership coach at and founder of