This has been on my mind for a long time now.
I’ve known I wanted to write about it for just as long, but I was never sure exactly what I wanted to say. I struggled with taking this emotion, this feeling I had deep within me, and translating it into words.
I’ve waited, and the words still feel scattered in my head—but I can’t wait any longer.
Women are an unstoppable force, but only if we get out of our own way and stop wasting our precious, fierce energy on petty, negative talk.
I know this issue doesn’t just arise within my field (adventure sports)—though it may be amplified because of the skewed male to female ratio amongst its participants. I see it everywhere. Women competing against women. And I don’t mean in the professional sense.
I see and hear women breaking other women down, scrutinizing them for ridiculous details, spreading rumors, making false assumptions and allowing jealousy to fuel their hatred. It is a horrible thing to see—and even worse to experience.
It’s vicious. Maybe that seems like an exaggeration, but I know first-hand, and I know you’ve experienced it as well.
See, we as women are taught, by the media, magazines, advertisements and our peers, to compare ourselves to one another. To reach for whatever others possess. “How to get Jennifer Anniston’s arms, Angelina Jolie’s lips.”
We’re taught that our confidence comes from perfect (and CGI) hair, from flawless (and photoshopped) skin.
The images of “perfect beauty” that surround us every day subconsciously instill in us this constant need to compare ourselves to one another. As we do this more and more, it switches from an inner dialogue of, “Oh, I wish I could have that,” to the destructive, “Why does she have that, she doesn’t deserve that.”
And this is where it all goes to sh*t.
So how do we avoid this negativity that only breaks us down?
The first step is understanding where this negativity stems from. Why is there this need to break others down to lift ourselves up?
The number one thing I have seen is jealousy. A lot of jealousy I have witnessed stems from someone feeling more deserving than others. But as I can attest, not everyone knows our journey—and we most certainly don’t know theirs. We don’t know how many long, hard hours someone has put toward accomplishing something. We don’t know all the struggles and roadblocks they faced; we don’t know the blood and sweat and tears they experienced.
And they don’t know that about us.
So instead of looking at others’ successes with jealousy, let’s admire them. But that’s only the beginning. Here are three more steps on the long road to supporting other women and ourselves:
1. Decide that you are good enough.
Because let’s face it, you are. When we decide that we are good enough, our confidence rises. No, we might not be where we want to be, but thats okay. Others are rarely handed success. To get to where we want to be, it’s going to take hard work and dedication—and we must decide that we are good enough to get there!
2. Have a zero tolerance policy.
Refuse to engage or be engaged in conversations that break others down. You will be amazed at how much additional energy you’ll have for the more meaningful things in life.
3. Have compassion for yourself and others.
It is so easy to be hard on ourselves. It’s okay to be self-critical, but only if it is constructive and ultimately supports us to move past the blocks, not create them. There are times in all of our lives when we feel like other people just don’t understand our struggle.
But if this is true for you, then it’s true for the person you are comparing yourself to as well. Each of us has to work hard and figure it out. This path is yours and yours alone! Knowing this should give you a deeper sense of compassion for them as they navigate their path.
Women supporting other women is a powerful thing. When a woman supports another, not only is it an indication of personal and professional confidence, but it also demonstrates a desire to make a positive impact.
When women support other women it shows love and compassion and a deep commitment to better the world.
I’m not saying drop your ethical standards to support choices with which you disagree. There will always be people we don’t agree with, we don’t get along with or we just don’t like—and that’s fine.
This isn’t about cupcakes and rainbows and getting along with everyone. This is about developing within ourselves a deep sense of confidence so we don’t want or need to break other women down to feel good about ourselves. In doing this we free up emotional time (you know, the exhausting time spent worrying, stressing or criticizing others), and we can take that newly acquired free time and use it instead to support other women.
One of the most beautiful things to me is a woman who is so happy and confident in herself that she walks around with a smile on her face, head held high. She doesn’t ignore the problems that surround her, but takes them on with grace.
For so many years, I looked at these women with a deep desire to possess the same energy they had, but I didn’t know where it came from. Now I know.
That energy comes from love. Love for self and love for others. It comes from an undying belief in our abilities to overcome whatever gets in our way.
Women need women! Now is the best time to drop the shackles of criticism and petty banter that hold us back and charge forward as the fiercely capable women we are.
Author: Clair Marie
Image: Courtesy of Author, via photographer Wendy Smith
Editor: Toby Israel