What Is A Strong Friend?

We’re back! This brand new season of Inner Warmup was inspired by the phrase “Check in on your strong friends”. Join us today as we share how we define a “strong friend” and introduce three strong friend archetypes we conceptualized.  

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Episode Transcript

You're listening to Inner Warmup where your inner work begins. I'm Taylor Elyse Morrison, creator and author of Inner Workout. And you as always are our expert guest. Thanks for being here today.

We are back. It's been a minute, I missed you. But I also gotta say that I for one, am loving this seasonal format. It feels so, so good to practice what I preach and to take breaks, and also to give myself and the people who bring this podcast to life, the space to create something that feels really special. Last season was all about burnout. Inspired by my own burnout experience after writing the Inner Workout book and preparing to launch it into the world. This season is inspired by a single phrase "Check in on your strong friends." That phrase gets a lot of airtime, particularly after some public figure who appeared to have it all together reveals that they are currently struggling or have struggled in the past. That phrase is supposed to remind us that even those among us who appear the strongest need support. But in practice, that phrase "Check in on your strong friends" can cause strong friends to deepen their patterns of caring for others, while diminishing their own needs in distancing themselves from true connection. Think about it. Something happens in the zeitgeist and the phrase "Check in on your strong friends", starts making the rounds. A strong friend will rarely think that they could be the ones in need of support. Instead, they'll take it as a call to action, a call to check in on everyone else rather than on checking in with themselves. This is especially true for folks who aren't aware of their strong friendness. On the other hand, someone who is aware that they're a strong friend might double down on showing that they're okay, that they've got it all together, and that they don't need help. At the end of the last season of Inner Warmup, where we focused on burnout, I shared a thought that struck a chord with me and I heard that it struck a chord with you as well. I'll quote it again here "The more I tried to be this person who appeared perfect. The more I'm pushing people away. People don't feel like they can connect with perfection. People might aspire to perfection, but they don't tend to feel safe to share with someone who they perceive to be perfect."

If you couldn't already tell I'm a recovering strong friend. And if you're listening to this podcast, there's a good chance that you are too. When I engage and interact with the Inner Workout community, I hear things like 'I really need to be there for the people in my life.' Or 'I'm nervous about what they'll think.' And both of those phrases are signs that the Inner Workout community really is a gathering of recovering strong friends. And that's what the season is all about. I've said strong friend a million and one times by now. So in true Inner Workout fashion, it's time to add a definition into the conversation. This definition comes from a neutral place. The goal was to speak about the behaviors without placing a value judgment on being a strong friend. From our perspective, a strong friend is a person who walks through the world with an armor shield of projected strength. This metaphorical shield creates barriers between themselves and others, hindering their ability to truly give care, receive care and to do their inner work. Inner Workout's conceptualization of strong friends has been years in the making. I want to shout out former teammates Deanna and Paris, as well as current teammate Jennie, for their contributions to this work. So we've got the strong friend definition, a person who walks through the world with an armor shield of projected strength. This metaphorical shield creates barriers between themselves and others hindering their ability to truly give care, receive care and to do their inner work. With this definition in mind, you might see yourself reflected in that definition. But I want to acknowledge that the reasons we project strength and the ways in which we project strength, as well as the barriers we build. They don't all look the same. We've conceptualized three strong friend archetypes and I'm sure that there are more. For the rest of the episode we're going to break down the traits, core fear and barrier of each archetype. As we're talking about these archetypes, it isn't to villainize you for being a strong friend. And as we explore these fears and barriers, I want to acknowledge that you may have had experiences that have validated these fears in the building of those barriers. In my experience, being a strong friend is both nature and nurture.

We won't be diving deep into the why or the how of becoming a strong friend. But my goal is to support you in building self awareness, hold space for you to gain insights in how you're approaching relationships, and to plant seeds so that you can envision different ways of relating to yourself, your community, and the world around you.

This episode is really juicy. And we also put together a companion to the season called The Strong Friends Inner Workbook. It's a place where you can explore your own strong friend tendencies, the inner work that might be your medicine, and the relational support that you might need. You can grab The Strong Friends Inner Workbook for $4.99 at the link in the show notes, or you can go there directly by going to bit.ly slash strong friends, that's bit.ly/strongfriends, plural.

Now let's talk about these three archetypes. They're in no particular order. First up, we've got the picture perfect, strong friend. This is the strong friend who's always put together. They collect accolades and achievements just as easily as some of us collect nail polish colors. Picture perfect strong friends can't conceptualize half assing something, not in their vocabulary. It's 100% or really 110% or bust. And you might be thinking, Okay, so what's the issue with being a picture perfect, strong friend? This sounds like goals. Not quite. Like all strong friends, there's a shadow. Picture perfect strong friends are especially sensitive to criticism. It ruins the image they work so hard to cultivate. It also gives more fuel to the extremely loud inner critic they have within. Every strong friend archetype has a fear or a belief that haunts them. For picture perfect strong friends, they believe that people do not want to see their fullness. People want to celebrate the highs with them, yes, but they don't believe that people will sit with them in their lows. They fear that showing up as less than perfect will ruin their relationships. And as you can hear that, that fear, it creates a pretty hefty barrier. It's like the quote that I shared earlier, people can't really connect with perfection. And because of this barrier, picture perfect strong friends, they often suffer in silence. Now there's been a lot of controversy around one of the actors in the show Beef. I watched it before that controversy came out. And honestly as a piece of art, it is one of my favorite shows of this year. And Ali Wong's character, Amy, is a fantastic example of this archetype. Amy runs this trendy plants and succulents business that she's about to sell, it's gonna get acquired for millions. She has a gorgeous home, a loving family, people who admire her and the business she's built. But she's struggling. Amy has been struggling for a long time. And what's interesting about this character is that she shares just enough, quote, unquote, acceptable imperfection to make herself more palatable. It seems like vulnerability, but it's really just another way she's building a wall. I won't spoil the show, but it really demonstrates what can happen to a picture perfect strong friend when their walls fall down.

Let's move now into the caregiver strong friend. This strong friend is there for everyone else. They put the needs of their job, their loved ones, and sometimes people they don't even know before their own. They give the best advice, advice that they'd often benefit from taking themselves, but they won't because that would require an element of self regard that they struggle with. These people are allotted for being selfless, but their shadow is that they often feel like a martyr. They're over giving, waiting and waiting and waiting for someone to notice and reciprocate. Unfortunately, that doesn't happen as often as they would like. It can cause a festering resentment, as well as a martyrd saint dynamic, where they feel overworked, underappreciated and secretly superior to others because of how much they give It's worth noting that this archetype is one that often shows up in women because of how we've been socialized. Caregivers strong friends fear that they're only loved for what they can do for other people. If they take time for themselves or god forbid, ask for support or care, there's a chance, at least in their mind that it would end the relationship.

And as we saw with the picture, perfect strong friend, that fear turns into a barrier. The caregiver strong friend doesn't give people the opportunity to care for them, because they worry that those people either won't show up for them or stay in relationship with them. And what that does is create lopsided relationships, where there's a one sided flow of care without true connection. Do any of you remember reading the story of The Giving Tree growing up, by Shel Silverstein? It's so interesting looking at how my relationship to that story has changed as I've done my own inner work. If you're not familiar, if you need a refresher, it's the story about this boy who grows up with this tree. And the tree is kind of a constant giver of care for him. It's where he puts up a swing, it gives him wood to be able to build things for his home. And when the tree, all that's left is a stump, the little boy now an old man, gets to sit there. And at certain parts of my life, I felt like I wanted to be The Giving Tree. That was something to aspire for, or to aspire to, to give up myself in order to be in relationship with other people. Now I view The Giving Tree as a cautionary tale for caregiver strong friends, that if we give too much, and there isn't reciprocity, either in that relationship or in other relationships in our life, we can lose ourselves, until all that's left is a metaphorical stump.

Our last archetype to share is the intellectual strong friend. This strong friend is the one that you turn to when you're looking for a book or a resource recommendation. They've seen and heard it all. And it shows! They can tell you about the research, the controversies and the practices. But what intellectual strong friends fail to admit, is that this knowledge often begins and ends in their head. In their quest to build up their knowledge, they often miss the step of doing the work on their own. It's the difference between being a professor who has only studied something, and a practitioner who's lived it. And that's because they're afraid. They're afraid that going deeper will leave them stuck, stuck in their emotions, stuck in their current situation. They believe that it either isn't comfortable for them to explore their emotions and needs, that there isn't enough time for them to do their inner work, or both. And something to note for intellectual strong friends, is that for them, there's a safety in knowing things and this illusion of certainty. And when they are being invited to let down some of their walls, and to explore their inner world, they're entering a place that's more ambiguous. And that can feel really uncomfortable for intellectual strong friends. So that fear, it builds a barrier. They'll talk about theories rather than talking about themselves, what they know rather than what they've been through, and they'll have conversations without necessarily building connection. The TV show Shrinking, offers an example of how this can show up in real life. Harrison Ford's character Paul, is an award winning therapist who other therapists aspire to be like. Throughout the season, we see him giving advice to the other therapists in his practice. Dr. Paul, he's rarely fazed by a patient situation. He's seen it all. Where he struggles is in his personal life. It's not a spoiler for me to share that Dr. Paul is very closed off. And while he might know all about the psychological frameworks and ethical best practices, he isn't initially willing to apply that knowledge to himself, let alone invite anyone else into the work with him. So we see a man who has all of the answers, but very little of the comfort that those answers are theoretically supposed to provide.

So these are the three strong friend archetypes. And guess what? I see pieces of myself in all of them. And as we've been working on the season, I become more aware of how my own strong friend tendencies pop out. For some of you, it might feel like there's a question mark, though, or an elephant in the room. What if none of these archetypes felt completely like you? I've got a few things to offer for that. The first is that these are archetypes and everyone has infinite archetypes within them. So, if it doesn't fit you to a tee, that's fine, there might be a facet or an aspect that helps you see yourself more clearly. The second thing that I'd offer is that maybe being a strong friend isn't where you personally need to focus your inner work right now. Maybe something else is a higher priority, or just isn't something that resonates with you in the moment. And that's okay. And finally, it could be that your brand of strong friend isn't one that we've seen enough to categorize. If that's the case, shoot us a note, we would love to hear more about how your strong friendness shows up.

And this episode is really a starting point. If you want more space and resources to reflect on these archetypes, you also want to look at the inner work that could be especially useful for each archetype, and the relational support that each archetype could benefit from, then make sure you grab our Strong Friends Inner Workbook for $4.99. You can get it at bitly slash strong friends or at the link in the show notes.

Now that we're all on the same page about what a strong friend is, this person who walks through the world with an armor shield of projected strength, creating barriers between themselves and others, hindering the way that they are able to give care, receive care and do their inner work. Let's talk about what to expect for the rest of the season. It's going to be a really good one. We've got seven more episodes, where with our guest we'll explore strong friend tendencies in more depth and the skills strong friends need to deepen their relationships. So what that will look like is we're going to look into three specific behaviors: intellectualizing, people pleasing, and emotional labor. And then three specific skills: vulnerability, self advocacy slash boundary setting, and embodiment. So you are going to hear from a star studded cast of people who come to this work with a lot of experience, but also in many cases, willing to share how their own journey plays into their knowledge of each of these behaviors and skills. I'm really excited and proud to share this with you. And this is going to be a season that is worth the wait.

So before we head out, thank you for listening. And if you liked this episode, if this has got your wheels turning about being a strong friend, and what archetypes you might resonate with, please share it with a friend and have a conversation with them. Sharing this podcast is really how it grows. I don't know about you, but I hear about podcasts because my friends recommend it. And if you're feeling especially generous, head over to Apple podcasts, yes, even if you don't listen on Apple podcasts, and give us a quick rate and review. That actually helps us get amazing guests on the podcast so that they know people listen to the show and people appreciate what's shared here. We will be back with many more episodes exploring strong friends but I'll end it there for now. Thank you so much for your time. Thank you as always for your expertise and take care.