What happens when we see ourselves through the eyes of our favourite people?
We’re not working hard enough, we’re not working out enough, we can’t even work out why our friends want to hang out with us.
We can all be our own harshest critics, but when our friends are feeling down? We’re their biggest supporters.
It’s because we all know we feel stronger when we look out for each other and almost always achieve more together.
So, what would happen if we flipped the script and started seeing ourselves through the eyes of our cheerleaders?
We asked five women to share their thoughts on life, love and making a living to their best pals to see if a little friend-on-friend reflection could change the way they see themselves.
Here’s how it went…
“I feel like a failure when it comes to my career”
Emma and Clare have been best friends since they were three years old. Despite living in separate countries for the past 15 years, they speak every day via WhatsApp (they spoke on email before there was MSN, and Bebo before Facebook).
What Emma thinks:
“When I look at my career path, I feel like I’m nowhere near where I thought I’d be at my age – even though I’m still working on the plan I set for myself when I was 10 years old.
I feel like I’m lagging behind my ‘before I hit 30’ goals, as if there’s a ticking clock of when I should reach my career peak before I accept that I’ll never be successful.”
What Clare thinks:
“Whenever I’m trying to diagnose if I’m working hard enough, I always compare myself to Emma.
I don’t know anyone our age who is as ambitious or as successful as she is. She’s a role model for me professionally – I’m even relying on her to help me negotiate my own promotion and pay rise right now.
I don’t know where I’d be without her as a professional confidante and mentor. She’s 100% my #careergoals.”
How Emma feels now:
“I’ve never thought of myself as a role model to anyone. I’m genuinely surprised to hear Clare’s praise.
The advice I give is purely as a friend, so I’ve never seen myself as a career mentor. I just want the best for her.
It’s touching and encouraging that she thinks so highly of my career. I now recognise an element of impostor syndrome and knowing she thinks of me like this has given me the confidence that I’m doing better than I think.”
“I’m so self-conscious about my boobs”
Jamie and Sarah met at work and have been friends for four years. They share everything, from a love of white wine to punishing weekend runs.
What Jamie thinks:
“I’ve never really liked having big boobs.
Whenever I want to buy new clothes, they don’t fit properly and there are so many styles I just don’t feel comfortable in.
Bras for larger chests tend to be big, beige and boring. I feel self-conscious wearing anything low cut because I get stared at.”
What Sarah thinks:
“I love your figure! I’ve got a really flat chest and I envy the way you look in clothes.
I don’t feel comfortable in certain styles either, but it’s all down to what you like rather than what you think you should or shouldn’t wear.
To me, you’re an absolute bombshell, boobs included.
And you should definitely check out Triumph for bras. They believe in physically and emotionally supporting women, so you can say bye-bye to beige.”
How Jamie feels now:
“I guess I never really see myself in that way. I always think of my boobs as something to hide rather than a positive aspect of myself.
We always want what we don’t have, so sometimes it’s nice to see yourself through someone else’s eyes.
After speaking to Sarah I might wear something a bit different the next time we go out.”
“My mental health is in a vicious cycle”
Charlotte and Maria have been best friends for 10 years. They met at secondary school and bonded over their (bad) taste in boyfriends and Charlotte’s mum’s couscous.
What Charlotte thinks:
“My mental health and fitness are so intertwined.
When I’m really anxious I don’t go to the gym; I think I’ll look out of place because I’ve put on weight.
I also get anxious that I have more productive things to be doing than working out. I used to be really slim. Now I feel a lot bigger.”
What Maria thinks:
“It makes so sad to know Charlotte thinks of herself like this.
She looks slimmer every time I see her, but that’s neither a good nor bad thing.
I know she suffers from anxiety and wish I could help her through that so she could work out when she wanted for her mental health, not a number on the scales.”
How Charlotte feels now:
“It’s nice to know Maria wants to support me in any way she can.
A lot of my weight issues come from anxiety and I do need to find ways to stay relaxed such as seeing my friends or not feeling guilty about treating myself.
It will take me a while to build my self-confidence, but it helps to know I have friends like Maria to help me get there.”
“I feel like I’m going to be single forever”
Alex and Jazmin have been friends for six years and met at university. Living in different cities means they don’t catch up as often as they’d like, but they make up for it with regular chats and hand-clap emojis.
What Alex thinks:
“Five years ago, I broke up with my boyfriend after I found out he’d cheated on me.
He was my first love and I was shattered. Ever since I’ve felt undesirable. I’m never asked out and feel jealous when I see my friends getting dates.
I feel like I’m not the same fun, confident person I used to be. I’m lonely and can’t see how I’ll find love again.”
What Jazmin thinks:
“Alex is such a strong, independent woman and it saddens me that she doesn’t hold herself in as high regard as her loved ones do.
I’ve told her before that we need to give ourselves what we might want from a partner.
I admire her honesty as it’s easy to pretend we’re never jealous. But I see her settling down with a partner who respects her and is 100% her equal.”
How Alex feels now:
“It’s good to hear Jazmin acknowledge my feelings are valid rather than just telling me to ‘enjoy being single’.
I joke a lot about my lack of Tinder success but it felt good to be real with her about how much it affects me.
I do need to stop being so hard on myself, so I’m making it a goal to give myself the respect I deserve while also being more honest about my feelings with my friends.”
“I feel guilty for being irresponsible with money”
Asha and Jada have been friends for two years. They met at a Justin Bieber club night and often order three pizzas between two.
What Asha thinks:
“I feel so irresponsible with my money. I see other people my age buying houses and it makes me feel like I should never go out and enjoy myself.
I’ve been renting for the last three years, so it’s hard to concentrate on saving for a deposit.
I want to spend my 20s not feeling guilty about going on holidays when it’s not my fault that house prices are extortionate.”
What Jada thinks:
“Asha is thoughtful about her future and she underestimates how much that will help her.
Yes, short-term sacrifices will mean long-term gains, but in reality spending every Saturday night with Netflix isn’t for everyone.
I think Asha should take a look at her spending so she knows what she can cut down on and open a savings account while allowing herself to spend sometimes. Life is for living.”
How Asha feels now:
“It’s good to know that I’m not being frivolous by enjoying myself.
I do think Jada has a point about financial spring cleaning. I avoid looking at my bank balance for as long as possible, so I appreciate the practical advice.
Going forward, I’ll try and find a balance between enjoying myself (and not feeling guilty about it) and putting a bit of money aside each month to help me feel less anxious.”