Why We Close Ourselves Off to Friendships and How to Open Up

“If you accept a limiting belief, then it will become a truth for you.” ~Louise Hay

Picking the flimsy gold lock on my groovy denim-covered childhood diary, I’m instantly transported back to my ten-year-old life.

Each page duly describes what I what I ate for dinner that day as well as what my two best friends and I got up to. It was 1976 and we were obsessed with Charlie’s Angels, cruising around “undercover” on our bikes, solving fresh crimes around the neighborhood.

Every couple of weeks I’d report the latest drama amongst the three of us. Either my two friends had inexplicably turned against me, or one of them had coerced me into siding with them in a never-ending series of turmoil.

By the time we were teenagers, we’d drifted apart and I’d started struggling to form female friendships that weren’t fraught with gossip or backstabbing

When I got to university I’d firmly made up my mind that girls weren’t to be trusted and I only wanted guy friends. I made an exception for one girlfriend who felt the same, and we went on to be roommates, priding ourselves on our fun circle of male-only friends.

It’s fascinating to reflect on how belief systems are formed. The more I told myself this story of females being intrinsically bad news, the more I avoided getting close to any. As I grew into an adult, my theory was again proven as I got sucked into more dramas and gossip.

Once I got married, my husband became my best friend. He was never jealous of my male friends, and we enjoyed a great social life with other couples. However, after we started a family I found myself navigating fresh female waters: the mothers at the school gates!

I immediately sensed a minefield of gossip and competitiveness. I would have been easier to drop my kids off and go, but I had their social lives to think about too.

Thankfully, I got back into journaling around this time, and I used it as a way to get to know myself better. I explored my struggles on paper and tapped into my wiser, all-knowing self to discover that, for me, the secret to having great female friendships was to see special ones individually, never forming a group.

I turned down all invitations for ‘Girls Nights Out’ or weekends away, as that dynamic wasn’t appealing. I now had a small handful of genuinely lovely girlfriends whose company I cherished and who shared my values of trust and openness. I made a point of seeing them one-to-one and never introduced them to each other, treasuring our meaningful conversations.

One day I heard about a series of life coaching workshops and felt immediately drawn to sign up. I invited a dear friend to join me, but she couldn’t make it, so I invited another special friend who eagerly accepted. How fun to have a once-a-week date together to focus on our lives. But then something ‘terrible’ happened. The first friend I’d invited called back and said she’d rearranged her schedule and was excited to now be able to join me after all!

This sent my head into a spin. I decided my only choice was go with them both.

Although we all lived on the same street, I’d deliberately never introduced them to each other because of my flashbacks to the three-way friendship dramas of my childhood. “One-to-one friendships only” had become my rule.

Together in the car on our way to the first workshop, I endured small talk and introductions, rather than delving into meaningful subjects as I normally did with each of them. But by the time we left the workshop venue, we were all riding on a high of inspiration, so we headed straight to a restaurant to download our insights over lunch.

We did the same thing again every week and by the time the course ended, we’d agreed to form a monthly meet-up for the ‘soul’ purpose of working on our lives together.

That was in 2008, and we’ve met every month since.

Our Power Posse is based on absolute openness and deep mutual trust. Having our monthly check-in to share on how each area of our life is going helps us clarify our intentions and goals. It gives us accountability and motivation to live our best lives.

We’ve even run retreats together, inviting other women with a growth-mindset to join us. I’d have never imagined this back when I was still telling myself the false story that females aren’t to be trusted.

In my case, I held myself back with the limiting belief that group dynamics among women were dangerous. Perhaps you hold a different belief that prevents you from forming and maintaining friendships, for example:

  • No one really gets me.
  • I ruin all my relationships.
  • I’m too intense or too sensitive for people.
  • People always disappoint you eventually.
  • You can’t ever really trust anyone with your personal life.
  • I can’t relate to any of these people.
  • Everyone already has all the friends they want at my age.

We form many of these beliefs out of direct experience from our past. When something painful happens, we draw a conclusion about why it’s happened in an attempt to avoid that same situation in the future. That conclusion feels like a fact, and it then forms a belief that we carry through life. This affects how we think, act, and feel—about ourselves and others.

Limiting social beliefs are often amplified by a fear of rejection, criticism, ridicule, or betrayal. We proceed with undue caution in order to protect ourselves from getting hurt. This leads to limiting decisions. We cut ourselves off from what’s possible by painting ourselves into a box that feels safe. We miss out on opportunities that would enrich our lives.

In order to break free from these limitations we need to act against our self-protecting instincts. It’s okay to take baby steps if you need to. Start by setting an intention. What aspects of your social life or a specific friendship make you feel unhappy or disconnected? Which limiting beliefs may be hindering you? What would you need to believe instead to welcome more people into your life?

For example, “I can’t really trust anyone with my personal life” could turn into, “There are people out there than I can trust—I just haven’t met them yet.” This positive expectation shifts the energy around it. Now you can begin to collect new evidence to back up this belief by opening up more regularly, sharing more authentically, and increasing the likelihood of making a solid connection with someone you can trust.

Our belief system is powerful, so it’s important to pay attention to when you might be telling yourself a limiting story. The more awareness you bring to your beliefs, the quicker you’ll make the shifts needed to let them go.

Shedding my own limiting beliefs has opened the door for a multitude of incredible females to come into my life over the past ten years. They’ve shined a light on my own greatness, and we’ve inspired each other to reach even higher for our biggest dreams. The same can happen for you.

What stories from your past have carried on into your present life? Are you willing to let go of any limiting beliefs that aren’t serving you so you open yourself up to new people and experiences?

About Kelly Pietrangeli

Kelly Pietrangeli is the creator of Project Me for Busy Mothers, helping women find a happier balance between the kids – and everything else. Mixing practicality with self-awareness, Kelly helps mothers get on top of their endless to-do’s and see life beyond the laundry pile. Grab her free Life Wheel Tool for discovering what needs your focus first.

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4 Rules to Achieving Happiness

This morning I was very unhappy.

I couldn’t get things done. My mind was bouncing like in a pinball machine. And I hated people in my head.

Hated them!

First, I was thinking of at least two people who had wronged me in the past few months. I kept thinking, “But I did X, Y, and Z for them!”

How dare they!

And yet… they treated me horribly and I put up with it.

I kept thinking in my head of the scoreboard. I did this, they did that, I did this, but then they did THAT. And the scoreboard added up to me winning.

And that led me to four rules of happiness:


Catch yourself thinking of the scoreboard and then try to think of other ways to look at it.

Person #1: We moved in different directions. Everything happened for the best.

Person #2: I don’t really understand what happened but he is not the friend I thought he was so it’s all for the best.

The “scoreboard” is the enemy to happiness.

Then I was unhappy about something else. I wasn’t getting invited to speak at an event I’m usually invited to.

Why not? Why the hell not!?

I could ask. I could try to get invited. But I don’t really want to go anyway.

So it’s a status thing. I want people to like me. I want people to think I have enough status that they invite me to their events.


If yes, then focus on building skills and improving than trying to change someone’s opinion of you.

So I write. I have ideas. I read. I make calls that improve my opportunities.

I try to improve myself instead of improving someone’s image of me.

For the third time this morning I was unhappy.

I wanted to write but instead I got sidetracked. I tracked down a third cousin of mine via 23andMe. And then we both had fun linking up family trees to find out how we were fully related.

I had never done that before. I had always assumed all the genealogy stuff was BS and I still think it is.

And yet… it was fun to hear this woman’s stories about my great-grandfather from 1940.

Why should I care? I don’t know. But it made me happy.


Indulging in what you love = material for writing. Writing later about this will make me happy.

Procrastination is a basic human need. We didn’t have “to-do” lists 70,000 years ago. We did what our heart was pointing us towards.

If we were hungry, we ate. If we needed to hunt, we hunted. If we needed to run, we ran!

At one point when everything was whirring around in my head, I was most unhappy.

Sometimes things are going wrong in our mind and bodies FIRST, and then our minds build stories to fill that unhappiness in.

For me, last night I didn’t sleep as much as I used to. And my brain is a bit fried from non-stop work over the past few months.

So my brain started over-reacting to all of these slight insults and pains.


If you are unhappy and stressed then you certainly won’t be of use to the people around you who you love.

So I took a deep breath and I pictured that I was an alien from another dimension.

I close my eyes and then open them. Who is this body and this mind? Why is he thinking these meaningless thoughts that seem to be causing him some pain?

I have a mission. To calm this body down and do some good today. And then I am gone tomorrow. On another, intergalactic, interdimensional mission.

I am a multi-dimensional, multi-verse superhero, on missions for billions of years and this is just one of them.

Happiness is a bag of chemicals. Some serotonin, some endorphin, some dopamine, reduced cortisol, some oxytocin.

You don’t need to be happy every second. That’s just the meat computer in your head. Don’t be a software program. Be the programmer.

You’re on a mission. Get it done.

James Altucher is the author of the bestselling book Choose Yourself, editor at The Altucher Report and host of the popular podcast, The James Altucher Show, which takes you beyond business and entrepreneurship by exploring what it means to be human and achieve well-being in a world that is increasingly complicated. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Image courtesy of Andre Hunter.

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Three Precious Lessons from Living Abroad

By passport and birth, I am Romanian. By soul, I am a citizen of the world. I’ve always been fascinated by cultures, traditions, mentalities, and different ways of doing things and perceiving the world. So when I got my first working contract in Sweden twelve years ago, I embraced it with tremendous joy.

Five years later I took one of the biggest steps in my life and moved to Shanghai. I was an Eastern-European woman leading a Chinese team, in an entirely new environment, so different from anything I had experienced before. After Shanghai, life brought me to South Korea and Mexico for other four exciting years. Today, I am sharing these insights from my current home in Dubai.

Looking back on my life, I know I used to expect others to behave in specific predefined ways, and I stereotyped people based on their country of origin. For example, I assumed that all Italians would speak a lot and loudly. All Swedish would be blond and shy. All Greeks would be cheese lovers, and all Chinese were supposed to eat dog meat.

The truth is, I was putting labels on people and seeing the world in black and white. As if I was the only one holding the absolute truth and the “right” way of perceiving the world, and anything else was either strange or abnormal.

Cognitive distortions like labeling or stereotyping separate us and shut us down. When I was meeting the world with a “my way or no way” approach, I was stuck on my ego. My mind was too busy judging, so it had no time to listen or understand other points of view, and everything outside my comfort zone scared me.

The real shift happened the day I decided to meet new people with the eyes of a child, with curiosity and a genuine interest to know them and connect with them, from the heart. I started to ask questions, like: “What makes you say this?” “What makes you do that?” or “I’m not sure I understand. Can you tell me more about that?”

New insights and new perspectives came to life that I’d like to share with you today:

1. Beauty is subjective.

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I believe this is true. Knowing this helped me stop judging the Chinese, South Korean, or Japanese for hiding themselves under big umbrellas during summer.

As an Eastern-European woman, I was raised to believe “summer beauty” was all about getting a nice, sexy chocolate-like complexion. However, during my stay in Asia, I was always complimented on my “gorgeous white skin” because here beautiful often means “white.” So if you visit this part of the world, don’t get surprised to see lots of whitening products in beauty shops.

Each time you think you’re not beautiful enough, your nose is too long, or your hips are too big, remember that beauty is a norm, shaped by societies and cultures. Spend your precious time by finding your own kind of beauty. You are what you believe. Decide you are gorgeous and see what happens.

2. Feedback is just an opinion.

If you are concerned with what other people think about you, know this and set yourself free: if they find you intelligent, stupid, ugly, or average, that has nothing to do with you. It’s all about them and what they see in you after they evaluate you through their standards and expectations.

Take my example: a Swedish colleague once told me I was “scary”—“too emotional, too talkative, and too intense.” I wanted to know more about myself, so I asked colleagues from Romania what they thought about that feedback. They found it funny: “What? You, scary? You, intense? Who told you that? You must be kidding!”

To them, I was normal. Showing vulnerability and expressing emotions at work was not common in Sweden, but it was normal to me.

That’s where the differences came from. It wasn’t right or wrong; it was just different. Every time people tell you that you are “too little of this” or “too much of that,” know that it has nothing to do with you. It’s about how they’re reacting to you, so don’t take it personally.

3. We are all influenced by cultural values.

Every culture holds a set of primary values that influence the way we act and think. In Sweden, for example, I learned the word “lagom” (meaning “not too much”), which is an expression of humbleness.

In other words, one should not stick out and be too much out of anything, or believe they are “some kind of special.” On the opposite side, if you were raised in a country that puts a high focus on acknowledging and praising your individuality, acting and thinking “lagom” about yourself might be hard.

Countries such as China or South Korea value harmony: let us all agree and collaborate, so it’s a win-win for everybody, and no one has to lose. Kind of “me happy, you happy.” So don’t get surprised if people tell you they agree with you when, in fact, they don’t. It’s all about avoiding conflict and “keeping face,” for the sake of the collective harmony.

Knowing the cultural values in a given country is another way to understand why people behave differently. We all have our own historical, social background, but diversity doesn’t have to be scary. Imagine how boring life would be if everyone thought the same: no learning from each other, no brainstorming of new ideas, no evolution and growth.

It is essential that we embrace our differences with compassion and accept diversity as a reality of the world we all live in. Souls don’t hold a passport. In spirit, there’s no separation, no nationality or religion. Those have been assigned to each of us at birth.

Hurting you is hurting myself. Loving you is loving myself. We are all One. – Sara Fabian (Click to Tweet!)

Sara Fabian is a Women’s Empowerment & Career Coach and inspirational speaker, on a mission to help professional women to discover their unique strengths, gifts and talents, boost their confidence, find their calling and live a meaningful life of purpose. For weekly inspiration, subscribe to her free newsletter at www.sarafabiancoaching.com or follow her on Facebook.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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The secret to scientific discoveries? Making mistakes | Phil Plait

Phil Plait was on a Hubble Space Telescope team of astronomers who thought they may have captured the first direct photo of an exoplanet ever taken. But did the evidence actually support that? Follow along as Plait shows how science progresses — through a robust amount of making and correcting errors. "The price of doing science is admitting when you're wrong, but the payoff is the best there is: knowledge and understanding," he says.
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