I'm an American expat, writer. photographer. and old-fashioned romantic in love with celebrating the simple joys of daily life. I appreciate timelessness, the natural world, and a slow life lived with simplicity and intention. When I'm not photographing families or  slowly traveling the world and writing about it in a little notebook, I'm happily grounding myself in nature and cozying up with my sweet husband.

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I’m currently studying and taking copious amounts of notes Steven Covey’s classic self-help book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and as I begin to practice the Public Victory habits 4, 5 and 6, I’m reminded of how much my approach to friendships has changed over the last 3 years. Currently 24, I will be turning 25 in a few short months, and I am instantly brought to awareness by, not only how my relationships with others have evolved over the years, how I approach friendships new and old alike in my mid-twenties.

As teenagers and young adults in our early twenties, friendships were a central focus and theme. We navigated through the many changes in our personalities as our self-awareness grew, and we leaned on those friendships to help us discover who we were.  Those friendships were pivotal in our growth. They led us to our becoming. 

I owe much of my personal and spiritual growth to the friends I’ve had over the years, but the attachment that I had to people in my earlier years is so very different than it is now. This is in part due to my focus on my building and nurturing my marriage and largely due to my growing maturation, independence and self-reliance. 

On today’s personal blog post…

I’m sharing how my approach to friendships and relationships have changed from my early twenties to mid-twenties. 

Reliance

In my early twenties, I needed friends. I subconsciously relied on these individuals to fill the needs that are far beyond the ordinary demands of friendship, emotionally-speaking. I wanted deep and supportive friendships that would be there for me if I ever needed them most. I sought out friendships that would pick up the phone if I was having a hard day or consistently keep their plans and commitments with me. If a friend flaked on me too many times, I wrote them off. But as I approach my mid-twenties, my reliance has softened dramatically. Flakiness no longer bothers me, for my attachment to others also has diminished. It’s not a bad thing! It can actually be a rather healthy approach to viewing relationships.

When we rely on ourselves, we open up more room for other like-minded independent kindred spirits to join us on our journey. 

girl on a boat trip along the Red Sea Egypt Dahab

Attachment

As I was “discovering myself” in my teens and early twenties, part of my self-worth was slightly identified with the friends I kept around me. If I had a true and loyal friend, I had greater self-worth. Whereas if I attracted friends who gossiped or were more pessimistic, I felt it was my fault because I was not at the frequency of having friendships that aligned with my values. But what has changed the most over the past few years is my non-attachment. I love Buddhism and my growing love for the idea of practicing non-attachment in all areas of my life has led me to more peace, gratitude, and joy within. I practice non-attachment in my marriage, in my career, with my money as well as my friendships. I simply don’t attach myself – but allow it to be. Just as it is. I no longer control, but I embrace it and love it for what it is. Simple as that. 

Self-Worth

I no longer place my self-worth in others, but I seek inward, through meditation, journaling, and spending joyful time in my own company. My love for myself has grown, thanks in part to my focus on my own spiritual path. I stay in my own lane, supporting and cheering on others running next to me, but not placing enough importance to stop running. The attachment in others, and the world around me has diminished. 

These days my focus on sharing friendships with others is more casual and fun-loving, but equally as loyal and committed. My commitment to my friendships has not wavered, but my attachment to them has. I now seek to share good times and pleasure, to be playful and joyfully share in the experience of life with others, through laughter, humor, and conversation and my reliance on others have lessened in return. 

Allowing Friendships to End Naturally

With new chapters closing and beginning, I’ve naturally allowed several friends to drift and fade away over the years, many of whom were from college that were present at a time in my life when we both needed one another. I like to view them as “karmic contracts.” But as you grow older and learn to rely on yourself more and more, friendships that were wonderful at that time may not be wonderful going forward. And it’s almost too painful to hold on tightly, attempting to force a connection that simply isn’t there anymore. Allowing relationships to unfold with no judgment and no force has been the most peaceful lesson in acceptance. 

For example, I had an incredible friendship with a girl in my town in D.C. While the friendship was wonderful and always positive, I was deeply sad and hurt when she stopped responding to my emails and letters over the 6 months after I had moved away. I felt it was my fault, wondering nonstop what I did wrong, where could I have messed it up? The truth was that I didn’t do anything wrong; the reciprocation simply wasn’t matched. That was only 6 months ago, but I look back in appreciation at how I’ve grown, how my approach to friendships has transformed this time. I now look back with immense gratitude at our friendship and feel nothing but appreciation for the journey we’ve gone on. Although short, it was one of my favorite and most spiritually connected friendships I’ve had in many years. And aside from the gratitude, I have the nonattachment and surrender to let it go and no longer wonder why. I simply trust.

Some friendships last forever, but most don’t and that is equally as wonderful as the friendships that last forever. Friendships, no matter how they end or how short in length they were, are eternal. Every friendship is everlasting on the people involved. 

Helena Woods Iceland Blogger

Understanding Values

When I was 22, I began to study values and how they are different from each person. I filled out The Desire Map workbook and devoured all of Brene Brown’s books and even took an online class like Jess Lively’s Life with Intention course. Over the years I’ve begun to notice what mattered most to me in terms of my different relationships with others. 

I used to seek friendships that shared similar values to mine like “loyalty,” “dedication,” “emotional connection” but, of course, my values have changed with time and I now seek friendships that share in my love for “joy” and “playfulness.” Friendships who share in reciprocating value. In other words, I am no longer desperate in creating friendships with others that are not on the same wavelength, and I don’t try to force or make a relationship with someone work out.

If a relationship with two people is meant to be, it will be. If a friendship ends, it ends. I grow increasingly laid-back as I become older, and while friendships with others are still incredibly important to me, if they are meant to happen, I can simply allow them to happen and watch the relationship unfold with time and patience. 

I hope this personal blog post is helpful to you in approaching your relationships in any way. I am by no means an expert in any of this, but my hope is that, in sharing my own personal journey in growth and transformation, I can inspire others to allow what it meant for them to unfold and to be at peace with the changes that occur in our ever-evolving lives.

-Helena 

 

How My Approach to Friendships Dramatically Changed from My Early to Mid Twenties

March 2, 2019

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I'm Helena! As a creative storyteller, I document magical, emotionally honest family and children's portraiture. A lover of childhood, fairytales and natural light, I photograph families across the world. I'm the ultimate Disney nerd, and I'm obsessed with cats and expressing my love for the simple joys of slow, daily life.

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Helena Woods is a destination newborn and family photographer based in France and New England and travels worldwide. She is known for her natural light, modern classic, and emotive photography style.

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