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Every weekday around 9:20 a.m., I get a little note from a friend.

"Monday got you dreaming big, Christine? Good. But remember: goals should inspire, not make us feel inadequate. Aim for 80% this week."

"'I want to help, but I'm at my limit.' Showing up for others = noble, but can overload us, Christine. Here are three ways to beat empathy burnout."

"Starting anything is tough. You know that, Christine. But the 'messy middle' is often when self-doubt creeps in. Today, map that mess." 

These aren't a really timely friend check-in — they're actually texts from Shine, a self-care reminder service that brings a little dash of confidence and care to my morning inbox. And I promise, I'm not being paid to tell you that. But if you want to test it out, you can sign up here.

Sometimes making friends in adulthood can be as straightforward as giving yourself a little confidence boost to reach out to someone to meet up (and then actually follow up with a plan to meet up!). Sometimes it can mean being honest with your friends, even if the relationship is still fledgling, and asking for a little patience so you can have a night in to recharge. Shine has actually helped me find a good balance with this, and with setting positive intentions so that I can feed my positive vibes to help others around me (hopefully) feel positive too. But I wanted to get the perspective of the person whose job is to actually do the research and write the message in the text each day — so in this week's Q&A, meet Haley!

Special note: Speaking of taking time to recharge, this newsletter is going to be switching to an every-other-week schedule for the next couple of months. You may have noticed that there was no Sown in your inbox last weekend (happy belated Labor Day!), and you'll see me again in two weeks. No plans to end the newsletter anytime soon — just things picking up at work + in life and I want to make sure that the kind of information in these newsletters is actually worth the click for you!

Your friend,

Christine
 
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This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Christine: Tell me about you and your work with Shine.

Haley: So, Shine started two years ago. Two coworkers at DoSomething.org became really close friends as they were working in the mobile messaging space. They would regularly turn to each other for help with the hurdles we face as we launch into the real world, so they took the mobile messaging experience and said we should create this product. The co-founders wanted to scale their friendship in a way to find the support they found in each other.

As content strategist, I oversee the Shine text. We have two million users in 189 countries and what I do is help figure out the daily theme. It can be a confidence trick, a new perspective that helps people deal with burnout or feeling overwhelmed or wanting to go see their friends or feeling like they need a night to recharge or feel guilty about not seeing their friends or people who want to live these robust big lives. I write the actual Shine text and I do the editorial planning and strategy around it. 

I'm not trying to help someone be their best self because everyone has the foundation they need. I don’t want to say "be your best self" because it’s throwing shade at who you are now. 

Christine: So what is your personal perspective on friendship in adulthood?

Haley: Friendship in adulthood is so different than anywhere else. Before, your life is structured around your friendships. You’re living with your roommates who are your friends or you're in fourth grade seeing them on the playground. In the real world it flips and your life isn’t structured around socializing. It takes more effort and you’re not just randomly passing your bestie in the quad. You have to put more effort into it. You reconsider all of your friendships. We only have so much time and with your career you have to be really thoughtful about who you’re spending your time with and is it lifting your world up as well. Friendship has become a lot more thoughtful.

As a personal example, for my freshman year of college I was paired up with a roommate. We had all these crazy similarities like our last names being a letter off from each other and all these crazy things in common. Suddenly we graduated and she moved to Chicago and I moved to New York. Shortly after we graduated we went through some really tough things personally so it was about needing to be there for each other in the most difficult time for friends and being far from each other and not having this built-in mechanism of seeing each other. That takes effort of being there. How does that look when you’re not in the same space? And actually, that friend moved to New York a year ago, which is great — but we both have full-time jobs and lives and other relationships and we still have to commit. It’s different than what it was in college but the extra steps can make it more meaningful.

Christine: What have you found that helps? Does your work at Shine give you guidance about that? 

Haley: Through the work I've done at Shine I've learned a lot about self-care because we’re a daily self-care text and app, and especially about how you can’t pour from an empty cup. That’s something that's really resonated with me. To be the best friend I first need to take care of myself. Through Shine I’ve learned it’s not selfish to step back to say 'I can’t make drinks or can’t make dinner because I need time for myself to recharge.' It’s okay to be honest about that too. In the past if I knew I needed a night to myself I would make up an excuse. Now I’ve gotten to this good place with my friends to make sure I need a night on the couch watching a Meghan Markle movie or do whatever I need to recharge. My close friends are super receptive to that. The right people will respect that you come first in your life and it’s mutual too.

Christine: Do you believe in the power of positive people? The New York Times recently published an article about the role that optimism can play in our friendships. What's your take on that?

Haley: That goes back to the idea of surrounding yourself with the right people. They say you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. Stress is contagious but so is joy, so is laughter. It’s about surrounding yourself with people who lift you up. The one caveat is that I might be in a positive space but my friend might be going through something really hard, and don’t want to write off your friend. There's a balance between surrounding yourself with people who lift you up but having your own emotional bandwith and knowing how to handle your own positivity when your friend needs some lifting themselves.

Christine: You have overseen the content of dozens if not hundreds of Shine texts. What has been your favorite little tidbit about friendship?

Haley: There’s a thing called Dunbar’s number about how many friends we can hold within our life. He has this formula about your different circle of friends. You have 100 people that you consider casual friends, 50 additional people who are group-dinner level friends, 15 that you can turn to for sympathy and confide in, and five that are your close support group. Often, especially when you’re graduating high school and then college, you feel like you have to keep up with everyone — you have to have these tight intimate relationships with everyone. But it turns out that five is the magic number for your besties.

I’ve learned that it’s quality over quantity. I can’t have 15 people in my inner circle and expect to have really intimate relationships with all of them by the sheer limits of time and space. But a close-knit group you can really go deep with. It's not turning down friends left and right, but more about personally releasing the guilt of not having these super deep relationships. We can be so hard on ourselves. 

Christine: Is there anything else in particular you wanted to share?

Haley: Another thing I’ve learned is the power of being vulnerable with your friends. We’ve all had the conversations where we stick to the pleasantries and are catching up with someone. But it's important to learn how to have real conversations. When someone asks you 'how are you', take a beat and ask yourself how you’re doing and try to answer with what you’re actually going through. If it’s 'burnt out from work' or 'feeling run-down about this thing I can’t stop thinking about,' there’s power in being honest. Most times you’ll be surprised the person can relate.

We tend to stay quiet and isolate ourselves more and don’t know that the people in our inner circle are going through. There’s so much value in opening up. It opens the door to a whole new level of connection.

Go sow: Challenge for the week. 

✨✨✨
SPEAK YOUR NEEDS! Caps lock only because it's necessary. Haley encourages everyone who scrolled down this far to have that conversation with a friend and being upfront about needing a solo night in or whatever it might be. "Asking for help makes us think we seem needy but it actually makes us seem more confident," she said. "It's easy to say 'something came up I can’t make it'; it's harder to say 'I’m burned out and need to chill'."

Grow the Sow.

Zoom into the full map here.

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