Episode 03:

Girlfriends can save the world with Shasta Nelson

Did you know that there is a science around “girlfriendhood?” Shasta Nelson, a noted “friendship expert” and author of a book series on friendships does. Shasta’s life work is to help women make and keep great friendships, and she has studied the actual science of why having girlfriends makes us stronger, smarter and healthier!  Plus, you’ll find out what kind of friend Jen is, when you hear the results of her taking Shasta’s “friendtimacy” quiz (don’t worry, she passed). 

Transcript from the show

Narrator:   Welcome to the “For the Love Podcast” with bestselling author Jen Hatmaker.  Come on in, and join us for a chat with Jen and friends about all the things we love. Now, here’s Jen.
 
Jen:  Guys, thank you so much for joining us today on For The Love Podcast. We are super excited to talk with you in this series about what it means to create, and to keep, and to nurture, just a really meaningful circle of girlfriends. I think this is an idea that affects virtually every single one of us. So, it is my great pleasure to get to introduce you to today's guest. We have on today, Shasta Nelson and she is fabulous. Welcome, Shasta.
 
Shasta:  Thank you! Honored.
 
Jen:  Let me tell everybody about you just for a second. If you're not already familiar with her work, which you should be, let me tell you just a little bit. She just could not be a more perfect guest for this series. Shasta is the author of Friendships Don’t Just Happen: The Guide to Creating a Meaningful Circle of Friends, for those of us looking to make new friends. She's also written Friendtimacy--by the way--brilliant title, love it. How to Deepen Friendships For Lifelong Health And Happiness, for knowing how to make the relationships we have even better, even stronger, even lasting, even longer--even through conflict and disappointment. They're both available in bookstores or online and they’re both available in audio. Let me say something else that Shasta does that you guys are going to love. You're going to want to go on and check this out immediately. She has this amazing website called GirlfriendCircles.com
​It's basically a women's community dedicated to introducing women to new friends and inspiring better friendships, more or less. Does that sound right? You want to elaborate on GirlfriendCircles.com at all? Explain it to our listeners?
 
Shasta:  Yeah, we actually just want to be a place where people are learning how to make friends; most of us have never been taught how to do this. We do a monthly class that kind of helps deepen those friendships. Then we encourage people to meet off line in their different cities and to make friends. We use the online to kind of meet each other, but the goal is to encourage you and teach you how to make friends wherever you live.
 
Jen:  So fabulous. It's funny, because you know we're all grown adults and there's sort of this idea that making or nurturing friendships should just be intuitive rather instinctive. And it's really not for a lot of us. Real quick, just one last thing about about Shasta. She also writes for Huff Post she's been on the Today Show, interviewed about friendship by Katie Couric. Love her. Did you love her?
​Shasta:  Yes. She's such a perfect girlfriend material.
 
Jen:  She totally is. Shasta also has a master's degree in spiritual growth. So fascinating. Then a bachelor's degree in communication. So for about 20 years she has experience in short term counseling and coaching leaders in teams and speaking at an international like motivational and teaching venues. I mean really, girl you're all over the place. Your career is amazing.
 
Shasta:  Well, likewise! It's just nice when you can find what you're passionate about and have the opportunity to do it in the world.
 
Jen:  Totally. I tell young adults all the time that ask me about their dreams and their vision. I'm like--listen somebody, somewhere will pay you to do what you love. It is absolutely possible. So, let’s just jump into it here.
 
Can you tell our listeners what maybe first inspired you to create GirlfriendCircles.com because it's not really necessarily where you started in your career. 
​Shasta:  I was actually just working with so many amazing women kind of in a coaching setting and meeting different women. They had these big dreams and they wanted to get married, they wanted to have kids and they had these careers. I kept asking like, “who are your friends?” Because I knew that how you answer the question, “how supported do you feel” is like one of the number one things that's going to determine their success in their goals or their accomplishment of what they want. So I kept asking, “who are you close to? What are your friends saying about this? How are they handling it?” I continued to hear this kind of like, “well, I just went through a divorce and all my friends are kind of up in the air; I don't really feel close to any of them right now.” Or, “I just moved and yeah, I mean I've got some friends at work, but we don't talk about these things.” I just kind of kept hearing this reoccurring theme that very few people felt like they had close people who they could say, “yes, I feel supported through this big change or this big dream in my life.”  I remembered going through my own divorce and I remember moving and thinking, “Oh, I don't need to make new friends because I've got those other really great friends who were there with me through all of that.“
​Yet you get to a new area, and at some point you're just like, “I'm a little lonely--like  I don't want to spend every night on the phone with my friends and I want friends.” So it kind of just all came together where one night I was just thinking that I wish we could share our friends with each other. I've got a great friend in Chicago I should introduce to you, and I just kind of really moved into the space of saying this really matters.
 
In fact, 75 percent of women say that they want better friendships; that 75 percent of us are disappointed with the friendships we have and that we don't feel as close to the friends we want. I would say that was true when I was talking to women I kept hearing this. So, 75 percent of us; we kind of live in this belief that we're the only ones that need it and that everyone else has found it. That’s simply not true. So I really just wanted to stand in that space and say; “this is common and we can do something about it; it matters, and we have to do something about it.
 
Jen:  Well, 75 percent is higher than I would've expected. 
​Shasta:  That bears out on a lot of different people’s studies. I did a study for my book Friendtimacy, a survey where we sent out to almost 1500 women and asked them on a scale of 1 to 10; how satisfied are you with the level and the depth of your friendships? 10 being most satisfied, 1 being least satisfied. Women were twice as likely to put a one or two, as they were to put a 9 or a 10. The vast majority of us are hovering around four, five, six.  Most people, when you ask the question, “how satisfied do you feel--how loved and supported do you feel right now? Most of us are like. I have friends, but…
 
Jen:  Yeah, exactly. That’s why your work is so important. One thing that I love about what you have researched, is that you've actually done some study on why having good friendships is crucial to our physical health. Any time I get this sort of mind-body connection. I find it so fascinating. This is making our friendships even more important than we might think; it's not just our feelings, it's our bodies. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
 
Shasta:  Yeah, so 've been I'm just an avid student of reading all the research coming out in the last 10 years that has been so exciting. Both with kind of being able to study different things through social media, but also what we're able to study with MRI brain scans and imaging now is just so telling. We have doctors going on record; one doctor went on record saying loneliness is the number one public health issue of our time. We have The New York Times reporting that more often. We have a doctor in one article in The New York Times saying; if I have a patient who is a chain smoker, obese and, lonely and I want to do something, the most important thing for that patient's health, I'm going to get her to make friends. That will have a bigger impact on her health than the smoking and obesity. If you feel disconnected or don't feel supported, it's as damaging to your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. They can actually see the results of the impact. It's twice as harmful as being obese and it does the the equivalent of damage in our bodies as being a lifelong alcoholic.
 
You think about all the attention we give to, smoking, and weight and alcohol; and at the end of the day, how we answer the question, “how loved and supported do I feel?” will tell us more about our health 20 years out than any other factor. We're wired to need each other and for us to perceive not having that in our lives is causing undue stress for sure. It's staggering. 
​Jen:  It is staggering. Fascinating and surprising. I think what is hitting me as you're saying all that, is how often; you know I'm like you, I work with women all the time and I'm surrounded by women and I love it. I hear women generally relegate friendship to sort of an optional category. They just do. It's one of the first things to go and there's not a single one of us that has just legions of time. It's not as if friendship is easy for any of us. But I do hear women say, of all the things I don't have time for, that's just one of them. Yet your research tells us that we are doing irreparable and long term harm to our bodies and our minds and our souls. The correlation there is so high that I cannot believe more people aren't talking about that. I can't believe this isn't front and center information on mental, and emotional, and physical health in our culture. 
 
Shasta:  What researchers are saying is that having friends doesn't take the stress out of our lives, we know that. You're still gonna be mad at your husband, you’re stressed about this and that, finances etc., but what having friendships does do is actually it buffers our body from absorbing the impact of the stress in our lives. So it actually protects us from taking on the damage that the stress in our lives has. So, actually the more stress we have in our lives, the more we need friendship in our life to help buffer that and to protect us so we do know that stress kills us.
 
And so, this is how feeling supported when you say, how do you answer the question how loved and supported do I feel, that tells us how well your body is going to be able to protect yourself from taking on all the negative consequences of any stress in your life.
​Jen:  Let me ask you this. I mean to this end, if this is as important as all these studies say that it is, and I believe that it is as well, why do you think is so challenging for women today, sort of in our generation. to meet new people or to create these really meaningful circles of friends that all of us crave and that our bodies obviously, actually need. Like is it OK to want new friends? Why is this such a struggle?
 
Shasta:  Well, it is ok to want new friends and most of us need that. One other study is showing that we are replacing half our close friends every seven years all through our entire lives. So I always get this look when I'm speaking from women who are like, really? The thing I say to them is, name four or five people that you confide in the most right now and chances are high that two or three of them were not the same people you were confiding in seven years ago.
 
Jen:  Whoah, it’s true!
 
Shasta:  As soon as I say that people are like “oh, wow.” And seven years from now, if you’re average, and the research bears out, in seven years from now, you could be really close to somebody you haven't even yet met.
 
What we all want to do is become much much more practiced and open to two things. One; yes. I always want to be recognizing that I need to be starting friendships with new people because I don't know who's going to be the one supporting me seven years out, so I always want to be open to that. It also invites me to say, “wow, what can I do to be protecting the investments I've been making in my friends, too.? Are there certain friendships that I really want to hang on to and make sure last more than seven years? But absolutely it is a hard hard thing to do because most of us don't talk about it. We've never been taught friendship. There's a lot of stigma and shame that comes with it.
 
Jen:  There's stigma, there's shame, there's also loss and disappointment and all of us bring those stories to the table. For a lot of women in particular, I see us sort of approach the concept: when we say “friendship,” we're talking about the good stuff, right? Be vulnerable, the tender stuff, with caution and with restraint because we've all had disappointments.
 
OK, so you're talking about this and I love it because it leads me into the next thing I want to talk to you about. On your website, which is amazing, you guys; GirlfriendCircles.com. You invite women to take what you call a “friendtimacy” quiz. One thing that I really like about your leadership is that it's incredibly practical, because sometimes people talk about friendship in sort of pie in the sky ways. It all feels a little bit theoretical or a little bit fuzzy or soft. I really like how you take the issues and bring them down to the ground with steps that we can walk through. So tell us a little bit about that quiz and what it tells you and then ultimately us about ourselves.
 
Shasta:  Yeah absolutely. So “friendtimacy,” the quiz is built off of the definition of friendship. So by definition, and this is so important because most of us don't even know how to define what a friendship is. I agree with you-- I roll my eyes at so many of the memes that go around that are like; “ a friend is someone who's always there for you.”
 
Jen:  Totally, what does that even mean? 
​Shasta:  I’m like; we can’t measure that-- like who's always there for you?  I was on book tour for two months last spring and my girlfriend got kicked out of her apartment during that time--I wasn't there. 
Does that mean we're not friends? No, it means I'm so glad she has a good group of friends, that between all of us somebody can be there for her.
Jen:  Great point.
 
Shasta:  I can't be. We always have, we have aging parents. We have kids we have to take care of. We have jobs that make us travel--we can't always be there for somebody and I'm always saying to somebody, when you feel resentful at one of your friends for not “being there for you,” it's often not a problem that they're a bad friend. It's often that either; A. you don't have enough friends in your life to help support you and you need to be responsible for building that circle of friends up, or B. you haven't yet asked for what you need. So your friend doesn't even know; we have so many unspoken expectations of friendships that are very high and lofty. They should just know us and be there for us. So yeah, there's a lot of a lot of fantasy that's built around it. So a definition of friendship is so important because this is how we can measure it, how we can talk about it. By doing this we know how to evaluate friendship. Our definition of friendship is; any relationship between two people where they both feel seen, in a safe and satisfying way. 
​So there's three S's there, and when we look at all the different research that we study in psychology of how we look at relationships, these are the three words that are most studied in different ways and that we use to measure relationship. By being seen, in order to have for both people to feel seen; and it's important we say “both people,” because I've been a pastor or a coach and sometimes people will talk to me and feel seen. But it has to be mutual. Going into your hairstylist and telling her your whole story doesn't make you friends. So both people need to feel seen, so that helps, we do vulnerability. One of the things we can measure on that is; are both people being vulnerable?
​The second requirement of friendship is; we need it to feel safe and how we can measure that is the consistency of our friendship (and we can unpack all three of these in more detail too) because consistency is what helps us start being able to predict somebody's behavior and that's what makes us feel safe. That's what the trust is built on so. So you and I don't know each other, we could show up at have some level of safety with each other because we make assumptions.
 
But it would be over time as we're repetitive and as we build history that's where safety starts coming from where our brains can say, “well, last time I shared good news with her she celebrated me so therefore I feel safe sharing good news with her. Last time I shared something hard, she didn't judge me so therefore; and we start creating a history that allows us to feel safe with each other. 
​Then the third requirement of friendship; is in order for a relationship to be a friendship, it has to be satisfying and these are friends we're choosing at the end of the day. None of us are waking up thinking, “I'm going to listen to this podcast because I want a few more cranky, whiny needy, demanding people in my life who never make me feel like I'm doing enough. So we want a relationship that brings joy and so the way that we measure whether a relationship is satisfying, is how much positivity is there, and we can actually from research know, that any relationship to be healthy has to have a positivity to negativity ratio of five to one. 
​So we can measure those three things. So by definition, a friendship has to have positivity, consistency and vulnerability and so that “Friendtimacy” quiz measures those three things to help you be able to look at any relationship in your life. I can guarantee anybody that any relationship that doesn't feel good in your life, it's because at least one of those three things is in lack and needs to be improved.
Special Note From Jen:  Guys, just a real quick little break here in the show to talk about something super near and dear to my heart.

So you may know that my newest book is called Of Mess and Moxie and it comes out on August 8th. We're almost there. I absolutely loved writing this book for you, and I hope that you will love reading it. I think this is my favorite book to date. My goals with this book is that at some point in the reading, it will positively make you laugh, hopefully out loud; it may make you cry. I hope it makes you think. I certainly hope that it inspires you, and encourages you, and gives you permission to live your wild and glorious life; in the place that you've been planted. It was just a real delight to write for you.
Hey listen; if you preorder it before its release date-- any time between now and August 7 th - you get a bunch of cool free stuff too. My team put together this amazing pile of goodies for you; it's so easy. So if you're ever going to buy it, you might as well get it now. Get the free stuff before it's released. You can find out all the information on that, on the book's website. It's called OfMessandMoxie.com, and all the links are in there and everything you need. You can get signed copies, you can get a really cool collector's edition box set, and all the information on your pile of swag is over there too.
I can't wait for you to have it. I can't wait for us to talk about it. I hope that it serves you so well because it was a delight to write for you so, OfMessAndMoxie.com; go snag it!

Okay! back to our chat.
Jen:  So interesting—I’m sitting here and my wheels are just turning. You know there's something instinctive to just know that the positives need to outweigh the negatives in a healthy relationship, but hearing you put it in terms like you just did-- five to one ratio. t's such a great diagnosis. I'm pulling up relationships in my mind right now that I've got a question marks over and I'm not sure why, and you're giving language to it. I really like too, that you have us turn the mirror and have us look at our own lives and discover how safe and consistent we are. 
​In fact, I went on your website and I took the Friendtimacy quiz, and I've got my results. I sent them over to you too. It was really interesting to me because I sort of saw you know pretty clearly how that quiz is sort of divided out into the segments that you mentioned.
When I got my results back I realized; so I don't know what my average here is. Out of 100, my average looks like it's probably about 68. But it's funny, because in my mind I would rank my personal satisfaction in my friendships super high; like way higher than that. But I realized that my personal score, my investment as a friend, is lower. I'm getting more out than I think I'm putting in. My lowest score, if you had a minute to look at my results, is exactly where I knew it would be-- which is in consistency. Meaning, am I the one who always who texts first. Do I call first, do I initiate gatherings? Do I start the ball rolling, or do people have to sit around and wonder if I'm still alive? I've got some struggles there. What would you say to me? Fix me.  How can you fix me? Mine is time related, and that's so boring because everybody's busy. It's not as if I'm any busier than anybody else. That's not a good excuse. But that is what mine boils down to. ​

​Shasta:  Most of us can identify with that. When I'm speaking, and I have people evaluate which one would make the biggest difference in their friendships, that is the one that most people raise their hand on. It breaks my heart because we just live in a world that is not oriented toward relationships anymore. We are oriented toward ambition, and success and money. The research continues to bear out that that does not make us happier. It is not leading to more satisfaction and joy and peace-- yet we live in a world that just simply does not have time for relationships. So it becomes really challenging. So you're not alone. It's very common in our culture and it's heightened by the fact that this is why we thought friendships happened automatically when we were younger. It's because consistency happened automatically when we were younger. It's not that friendship happened easier when we were kids. It was that consistency happened. We didn't have to initiate meeting each other in school the next day, and send like schedules and where are you driving to today and get directions. You just went everyday and hung out. So we logged the hours in a way that did not require initiating and scheduling and logistics and all that stuff we have do now. So intuitively, hopefully many of us learned these skills, but the truth of the matter is nobody ever said to us, “OK, so now friendship is going to look different as an adult because you actually have to learn how to put consistency in place.”
 
And the only two ways that we have given, in a nutshell, when we want to increase our consistency, we have two options really and every option falls under these two. One is; join something that is consistent. So going to the same church every week or finding your job and saying, “OK who’s here that I can build relationships with? I'm already at this place all day long every day.”  Joining the PTA at school, something like a book club that's every month. Like anything that's already consistent, is going to help you build relationships with people without having to initiate and schedule. You're just simply showing up consistently as are they, the way that happened in school, a little bit. If you're not going to join something or your life your job isn't that kind of consistency. or you know there's not enough places in your life where that's happening, the only other option we have is to schedule it ourselves and this is where most friendships fail is that many of us are not comfortable initiating. Even if we do, we'll initiate once, then we use this really lame thing where we say, “well, the ball's in her court now. I reached out last time.”  Therefore, most friendships die right there because one person got too busy and the other person was afraid of being rejected or afraid of what that meant if they reached out again.
 
For lack of initiation most friendships don't get off the ground. To your credit, Jen, most of our friendships, if we have some history of good consistency with each other, it doesn't require as much consistency to maintain a relationship as it does to get a relationship up off the ground. 
​The other two factors of positivity and vulnerability are certainly connected to our consistency. I know for me, the less I see somebody, the less I am able to share with them, which means I’m less vulnerable I'm kind of being. because there’s so much to catch up on, you just can't share everything. So there’s less chance of getting positivity back which is like being affirmed and resonating and encouragement and all that kind of stuff. So certainly, you have the relationships where you can step in and “pick up where you left off,” and it can feel that safe and that intimacy and satisfying. The invitation is if you want more vulnerability and positivity and those feelings, then you know that the pathway to that is to create more time where you're seeing each other with with greater frequency or in a different way without the husbands and the kids--we have different ways of going about it. That would look different in each of our lives. 
​Jen:   It's interesting, and I wonder how many women are like me and that I have a handful of different friend groups—so, I don't just have one. We don't have just one space. So my scores would be a little bit different depending on who I was specifically thinking about it in terms of engagement. I have this one friend group, and not a single one of us lives in the same town, or even state or even country—we are all over the world. There's six of us and we have just a little private group on Voxer; you know what Voxer is?  You pop in and talk--and we literally talk to each other almost every single day. Sometimes, it's really really important stuff and we're in the weeds together and sometimes it is utter nonsense and everything in between. When I think about that group, because I want women to sort of turn a toggle a little bit in their mind because certainly there is something incredibly special about “in real-life” friends-- you know flesh and blood, sitting across the table from you, having a cup of coffee. But friendship can, in this day and age, it can take a lot of forms. You know I see those friends usually twice a year, but I am maybe the most vulnerable with them because of that consistency piece, because we’re talking every single day. So maybe it does look a little bit different. Maybe it's not you know necessarily the same form with every with every friend circle and women should maybe introduce a little bit of flexibility into what this looks like.
 
​Jen:  That’s why I love understanding these three requirements because we're not talking about like a lot of people even think oh I'm a mom I need to be friends with other moms or oh I live in this area I need to be friends with people there; we create these barriers about who we think we can bond with. I mean the truth of it comes down to is that we need to find commonalities but they don't have to be the ones that our brains actually often think they need to be. We all have evidence that people we’re really close with, who on paper, we wouldn't have chosen based upon how our lives look similar or that you guys aren't even in the same country. What we know from friendship is that these three things have to be present and you, and that group of friends, are modeling these three things--you're doing these three things.
 
Anytime we have a friendship that we want to increase; in meaningfulness and in depth and what I call “friendtimacy,” then we know what three things we need to put into place to experience that. You absolutely are experiencing that. I would say the same, Jen. Some of the friends I’m most vulnerable with, I only see once a year. We all get together for a girls’ weekend and we are so vulnerable, and we have so much fun together, and just share so deeply.
 
Sometimes it's even easier to stay close to people who are long distance because our day to day friendship is not affected by the changes each other's going through.
Somebody can have a baby, and it's like I'm not like it's not like it's affecting our friendship like we're still going to get together for our weekend and so in some respects are each other's lives. We don't get hurt by each other in the same way, we don't have expectations that can sometimes get in the way with local friendship. There are so many ways to do friendship, to your point. The question is; who do you know in your life? If you want something more, which of these three things can you add to that friendship to help increase the meaningfulness of that friendship?
 
Jen:  I love that.  I'm curious about your advice on this. On your site, you discuss the levels of our friendship circles--we're kind of talking about having all these different groups, which I also have. We have any anywhere from acquaintances to deep personal friends in some variation in between. So you know most people have social media friends and we have work friends. We have neighbors we have church friends we have childhood friends, just whatever.
 
I don't know if this question makes sense, but how do you recommend that we manage all those varying levels of friendtimacy?
 
Shasta:  It's incredibly important for us to be aware of which level of relationships somebody has with us because it helps us shape appropriate expectations of that friendship. What we're finding, and what I find a lot; as I I teach five different levels of relationship and level one is the most casual, level five is the deepest. Level two is what I call “common friends” which means you can actually experience a lot of intimacy in that, but it's within an area you have in common like we both work together. We both go to church together. What happens, and I run into this all the time, women will say to me, “I quit that job or I stopped going to that church or you know what I stepped out of the containers is what they're saying. Six years,  six months ago and nobody's reached out to me; nobody's got time for me. They must not care about me. And they create this whole narrative about how that friendship wasn't meaningful obviously to them or else they and we kind of like get our feelings really hurt. And I'm often in the place of having to say to women you were experiencing level 2 relationship and it was a it was meaningful it was valuable and it was real and we don't need to devalue it. But if you've never practiced being friends with that person outside of that container outside of that book club outside of that moms about outside of being married and having families on that block outside of you know whatever the container is.
 
Then when one person steps out of the container it makes complete sense doesn't it that our friendship never we never had practiced doing friendship outside of that container and it requires a great level of vulnerability and intention for one or both people to really reach out at that point and shift the relationship and most people simply aren't aware of that and don't see it and don't know it. So yeah, it's really important to have appropriate expectations of different relationships and to be able to measure our friendships. We don't arbitrarily decide that level, but we need to have appropriate expectations of what that friendship is and what we can expect of it and and not get our feelings so hurt or have inappropriate expectations. 
​Jen:  I love that. In doing so, in taking that sort of very deliberate approach to friendship and diagnosing it and studying sort of where we're at. It's really good for ourselves too to become a better friend to be a better friend or even just to identify. All right. This this and this friendship is where I would like to invest more and I have almost like a road map on how to do it. Here are really practical next steps to take, that again, I think there's an assumption that these things are just automatic or they're instinctual but they're not necessarily no. I love your example there that we you know we can walk away from a level to friendship having been really sort of you know “bordered in” based on where and how we were friends and then feel so wounded by lack of connection, but that's just so that such wisdom to say that friendship had really never transcended that space. I’ve got some friends right now in my mind that I really like, and we're bound in by borders and I'm I'm thinking to myself right now as you're talking, “OK how can I expand those friendships How can I make those sturdier and wider and broader outside of the way that we first met?”
 
Let me let me just ask you this, because I am curious about you just as a person; this is your work. So obviously this is going to be super important to you personally. What do you value in your closest relationships and your best friendships? What kind of friend do you gravitate toward and what kind of friend would you say you are?
​Shasta:  That's a great question. I am by temperament somebody who really enjoys meaningful conversation and by meaningful for me, I would be meaning like I love talking ideas. I love talking feelings, I love talking personal growth, so it's very abstract things often it's it's very “ideas” and what's going on inside of people. So I tend to probably spend a lot of time with people who also value that or enjoy it or are curious in that space. My favorite ways of spending time with friends or you know is just where we're getting to know ourselves and getting to know each other and processing who we are and what we're becoming and what we want to do in the world. And so with my friends, often I'm very intentional. So when my friends get together they kind of joke now “what’s our sharing question for tonight,” you know because I always I'm like somebody who doesn’t like leaving a gathering and just feeling like we just kind of did “chit-chat” or one person kind of took over or just kind of we just kind of talked about random things and that to me is like socializing.
 
So for me, I really value bringing that third piece of vulnerability which kind of means making sure that everybody has to have the time to be seen in this space and gets to share what you want to share and so I show up with a lot of desire in that third space, maybe because a lot of people don't pay attention to it--I've probably become very very intentional about being in that space and making sure that every gathering that people have the opportunity at least to be in that space. So I love that space, I love creating memories together and doing fun crazy things.
 
For me it takes a high level of trust you know to really show up and like totally let loose. I'm probably somebody where that area that I want to work on is is not needing to be seen a certain way and like letting myself just totally be, so for my closest friends, that's something that I owe them and that's something I'm very aware of and that I pay attention to. When we're talking about levels of “friendtimacy”, I mean if you were to say, “who are the friends that I feel the closest to,” then those are the friends that I owe it to them. They're my practice ground-- like they're the people I owe it to them to show up and practice being as vulnerable and be seen as stupid or silly or like not having it all together. That's my practice ground for doing that, so that I can show up in the world and do that more too.
 
So, I really feel like they're the place where I get to kind of practice trying to be the better version of myself.
 
Jen:  What a good way to put it. Yes and yes and amen.
​ Let me do this. We end every show with a segment called “the things we love.” It’s three questions for every guest so let me fire them at you—let’s see what you got. You tell us; what is the best advice and the worst advice you've ever received?
 
Shasta:  The worst advice I've ever received that I've had to do a lot of work around repair in years. I grew up in a religious denomination or religious setting that told me I couldn't trust my feelings. So for me, I've had to do a lot of awareness around that--a lot of work. That was bad advice.
 
Jen:  Well let me just put a pin in that because we're going to have to do a whole other podcast together on that alone. That's a really big deal.
 
Shasta:  I've done so many, I mean some of my biggest mistakes in life came because I didn't think I could trust myself, so I know. I was taught that and didn't have the ability to process it--what that meant and what people were actually afraid of. So, to not trust myself was a really big, big deal. I guess the opposite of that would be some of the best advice I've ever had was learn to hear your own voice-- like understand the difference-- so I now know very clearly I can hear the voice. I call it that. I have a voice of wisdom and I know I have an ego voice in there too. And I can very much tell the difference between those two voices and so for me learning how to like hear my own wisdom has been a game changer. 
​Jen:   Fabulous. Golly, I love that so much. OK how about this.
 
Jen:   Finish this sentence for us. “You know I really love you if I ever do ________for you, you know I really love you.”
 
Shasta:   If I ever do like, I'm going to say, acts of service for you. That's not my go to. I'm very good at holding emotional space and affirmation and touch. But like, that's not my go to. And so I am really trying to be the person who for my close friends, really shows up in the practical things for you.
 
Jen:  That's what I said, if you show up with like a king ranch chicken casserole, you would be good…
 
Shasta:  You better be impressed, Jen.
 
Jen:  You would require all the accolades that come with that.
 
Shasta:  You have no idea, girl. 
​Jen:  Girl, that was so great. OK. Here's the last one. This is a question that was first posed by an author that I love. Her name is Barbara Brown Taylor.
 
Shasta:  Yes, she's fabulous.
 
Jen:  This is the question that she wrote about; “what is saving your life right now?”
 
Shasta:  So many things, so many things--I feel like just love, I mean it sounds so general--but to me--it's like I wake up every morning and I am very fortunate right now to be in a space where I wake up and turn to a man, who I am so lucky to wake up feeling loved and to go to bed feeling loved. Then my friends--maybe it’s just that I've studied love and relationships so much, but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that feeling supported and loved is saving my life, no matter what happens for me. I’ve gone through some major yuck in my life some major crises and some major successes and to feel loved in both settings no matter what is saves my life.
Jen:  Bravo. OK. Let me tell you this is saving my life…I was looking on your website and I saw this picture of you in like skinny pants and red high heels, and those red high heels are saving my life. 

​Those red high heels are the truth. ​Girl.
​Shasta:  You know what, I wore those once. I think one of my girlfriend saw a picture of them on me, and they all decided that the next year when we got together that everybody was going to go buy a pair of red high heels and wear them together. Seriously, last year we were in Phoenix and here we are going out we look like a bachelorette party. We were just all decked out in our red high heels and I ought to send you a photo.
 
Jen:  OK, well so they've made an impression on more than just me.
 
Shasta:  They kind of create that fierceness that you’re like, yeah I've got this.
 
Jen:  Totally. One hundred percent. So as we wrap up here, tell all the listeners what you're working on right now and how they can find you. 
​Shasta:  Yes, so ShastaNelson.com is kind of the hub where all those little pieces of me, whether it's speaking or books or all that kind of stuff, can be found, and my newest thing is the FriendshipUniversity.com. We are making classes available there a la carte. So in GirlfriendCircles.com, members there get a class every single month from a different expert on a different piece of friendship so you know one month we're talking about how to have healthy empathy in our lives and our relationships in another month for talking about what are the five different ways to be vulnerable and another month of his like how to have healthy expectations in our friendship. I just I so appreciate you doing this podcast. I think that most most of us think that there's nothing to learn about friendship or we think or feel shame if we think that we need to learn something. And the truth is very few of us have ever been taught anything very few of us have ever like, you know, we're pregnant and we go by like every book on how to have a baby. Ironically our bodies actually do know how to do that, it’s automatic, and yet we study it up the yin yang. Yet when it comes to our friendships, we feel a tremendous amount of guilt for not knowing. So I I'm really excited to help kind of hold the space for learning that better.
​Jen:  Super. I totally love the Friendship University. Guys, there's friendship circles that you can tap into. There's a “friendtimacy” quiz that you can take. Shasta has a bunch of stuff like just going on at her website, there are trips. You’ve got some fun stuff going on, I really like it. It's very holistic and and women can pop in at whatever level they want in a group as an individual sort of at whatever level they are at. And so and this is an amazing resource for all the women that are listening. And of course it's women based. But honestly this is just as useful for men.
 
Shasta:  Yeah. I'm actually researching that area now because I do have a theory that our American men are some of the loneliest people on the planet. And now we've done a huge disservice to them because you look at the same three requirements of relationship. And we have not taught them how to be vulnerable; we have not encouraged it we haven't told them it's OK from a very early age.
 
Jen:  I would love to see what you produce on that. Maybe your readers will do what mine do.; and that is hold their husbands hostage while they read them passages out loud. So hopefully the women will serve their men with your amazing information. Shasta, thank you so much for your time today. I feel like just in 45 minutes I have learned so much. So much food for thought--I jotted down some notes while you were talking-- you're just an amazing resource for women and I just love your work, and I thank you for being here.
 
Shasta:  Well thank you, and congratulations for starting your podcast and for continuing to do your amazing work, it’s so needed in the world!
 
Jen:  Thank you. Have a great day. 
​Jen:  Great stuff, right? I was literally scribbling notes in my notebook while she was talking. There just so much depth there. So many things to unpack and to think about. I hope that you found something in there that was useful to where you’re at, to where you’re at with your friends, to where you’d like to be with your friends. Thank you so much to Shasta Nelson for sharing her time and enthusiasm with us today. You guys, if you want to head over to my website, JenHatmaker.com, not only will I have the transcript of this podcast in case you want to read through it, but I’ll have all of Shasta’s links. The links to her website, to her books, to her retreat, all the amazing resources that she has for you. I’ll also go ahead and link you; as I’m thinking about what she was talking about; gathering together with your best friends, even if it’s only once a year, even if it’s not every single weekend. How powerful it is to gather together; be in a living room together, or in a hotel room somewhere together, it really doesn’t matter, just sort of tucked in somewhere together. I’m going to share over on my website my very favorite hot tea and my very favorite regular girls’ priced bottle of wine. Things I love to share, love to open, love to pour for my friends. So whether you like to gather around tea or wine, I’m going to have two great suggestions for your over there.
 
So, join us for sure, for the next episode in this series, For the Love of Girlfriends. Join us next time on For the Love!
 
It’s Jen signing off you guys!

Narrator:  Thanks for joining us today on the “For the Love Podcast.” Tune in next week, when we sit down again with Jen and friends to chat about all the things we love.

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From the show:

Where To Find Shasta
Website
Instagram
Facebook
​Twitter

 
Shasta's Books

Products Mentioned
Friendship University
 
Jen's Favorite Tea
Harney & Sons Hot Cinnamon Spice Tea
 
Jen's Favorite Affordable Wine
Cabernet Sauvignon by Decoy

 
Bonus: Jen's Favorite Pricier Champagne
Iron Horse