“The premise was, because we both had very busy schedules and life was pretty chaotic at the time — I had two toddlers and I was living between New York and San Diego — I didn’t have the time that I had prior to dedicate to office time to my mentees,” Amuti tells ESSENCE. “Our conversation was, why don’t we put every question that our mentees ask into a podcast?”
The women took three months to create the content and build the brand. While the podcast was originally shared with just about 50 people around the time it launched, according to Amuti, within a month’s time, it would grow to 1500 listeners. The numbers continued to grow from there as the podcast, with its title The Great Girlfriends Podcast, shifting to focus on friendship, in general, amongst women.
“One of the main comments that we would hear from women who are outside of the New York area is that it’s hard to make new friends,” Amuti says. “It’s hard to get access to people that you’d like to meet outside of your high school or your work circles or church circles. And it’s hard to build interpersonal relationships that are essential to feeling confident.”
She adds, “So the idea of The Great Girlfriends is that there’s two levels of friendship: One with yourself, when you develop that interpersonal relationship and you begin to be your best friend, have your best party and live your best life doing the work. From there you’re able to open that up to other people. And when you do that, you find you have really truly optimized relationship building because the best relationship building starts with you. And from there, you don’t just have ordinary friendships. You have these extraordinary, supercharged relationships that are really, truly, when I say on steroids, I mean they are game-changing relationships.”
And while the podcast helps you to elevate your relationships, it isn’t the brand’s only space that provides the opportunity to be a better friend, including to yourself. On Friday, Sept. 24, Amuti will host the sixth annual Doers & Disruptors Conference in New York City. It will bring together listeners as well as its Facebook community of 22,000 and newcomers to connect and grow. It’s also providing tools for people to nurture themselves, their dreams and more.
“This year’s theme, ‘Show Up For Yourself,’ is so important because during COVID, and we’re still in COVID to be clear, what we found in our Great Girlfriends communities was that women felt like they were so overwhelmed because they were carrying so many titles,” Amuti says. “So many of which are outside of our skillset, not even within our bandwidth or sphere of influence and desire, but just [taken on] in a need to survive and protect the people in our world that we love. But it’s time for us to show up for ourselves.”
As we’ve been changed by the pandemic, so have our friendships — and we need to show up for those, too. Since last year, Amuti says people have held on tight to some friendships for fear that they wouldn’t be able to access them down the line. Others expanded their relationships. And then there are those who focused on quality over the quantity of friends they have. Now that people are starting to reconnect, including meeting up again and with people for the first time, we asked Amuti for tips on ways to build friendships and be a better friend overall. Here are a few gems:
It Doesn’t Have to Be Big, but Build a Community
“It’s good to have one great girlfriend. I was saying, if you have one in your lifetime, you were incredibly blessed. I will say that. I will also say, on the other hand, that there’s so much value in building out a community of women, like-minded women who can look through and think like you,” she says. “The reason I say that is because of the weight of friendship, the amount of value that is there and also responsibility that is there, sometimes having one, literally one great girlfriend, can be very imposing on a person.”
She points out that bearing the emotional responsibility of being a friend to someone who doesn’t have many can be a lot to bear. This can be especially tough if people, lacking self-awareness, make their few friends into therapists as opposed to just a sounding board.
“People get overwhelmed and we find that [they] exit a friendship, not because it wasn’t great, but because it got too heavy,” she says. “People have to understand that one friend can’t really handle the weight of all those things, because as lighthearted and as joyful as we can be as people, we can also be very heavy. And during a pandemic where everyone’s carrying five to 10 hats, new hats, it’s really hard for them to also show up strong as a girlfriend. The distribution will just be unbalanced.”
Don’t Have Too Great Expectations for Budding Friendships
“As we evolve as women, one of the greatest things that we can learn and recognize is that we’re all moving individually at different paces towards maybe different places in life. And it’s okay for us to have these milestone moments where we really just enjoy experiences with people. That can be friendship, too,” she says.
Amuti mentions that it’s important when making new connections with people to know what you want to give and receive in a friendship. From there, you can find points of connection. For example, you’re a mom, they’re a mom. But whatever you do, don’t start off too soon envisioning a person as a forever friend or expecting them immediately as a part of your future wedding. They could simply be, for example, great “coffee date,” “nail trip” or “foodie” friends to enjoy moments with. Those relationships are incredibly beneficial.
“How much pressure is it on a person who literally could just be your shopping buddy to become your everything?” she asks. “So you don’t want to put so much pressure on people to show up for us that we miss the opportunity that’s sitting right there, which could just be really precious moments where you could feel a connection.”
Understand the Value of Having Healthy Friendships
“One of the things that the data tells us is that having quality relationships lengthens your lifespan. Having quality relationships increases your net worth. It’s a cliche term, your net worth is literally your network, but it is actually true that the more quality relationships you have, the more likely you are to esteem yourself higher and to pursue more,” she says. “It also shows that having quality relationships increases your emotional health and your ability to resist terminal illness. It reduces stress on your life because the power of community is that we feed each other. We feed each other support. We nurture each other.”
She also says friends can help us see blind spots and can increase our professional trajectory. Amuti notes that overall, “friendship is the number one influencer in every single area of our lives,” as a great circle keeps us accountable while also being there to help us land when we fall.
“Literally lifespan is increased,” Amuti says. “You live longer, stronger. And the studies will even talk about the decrease in high blood pressure, the decrease in diabetes when women at a certain age begin to develop strong friend circles. So it’s so important for us to understand that a large part of our health and our wellness is quality relationships that support who we are and what we’re capable of.”