I've definitely been the type to see a beautiful woman walk into a room and feel less-than, have a friend receive a better grade and feel stupid or, honestly, see any woman doing anything spectacular at all and feel not only jealous, but also the nagging feeling that I could never accomplish the same things.
When I looked at other women's accomplishments, I felt worse about myself.
I would first note the gaps and weaknesses in my own life, and then start picking and finding ways to break down the women who were -- as far as I could tell -- responsible for making me feel this way.
Criticizing was my defense mechanism.
And even though I thought it would make me feel good, all it really did was make me feel depleted and disappointed in myself.
I think that this -- girl-on-girl hate -- is a phenomenon that many of us can relate to. We get so many messages telling us that only some women are successful, that only certain women are beautiful, that we need to fight to get to the top where there are limited spots that we turn on one another.
Even just by looking at many television shows, movies and magazines -- especially ones aimed at women, we can see how women are pitted against one another. And we act that out in reality, too.
It's the best joke the patriarchy ever played on us. It's easy to cut each other down, to make comparisons, and to criticize. It's what we've been taught to do.
But think for a minute about what our lives would look and feel like if instead, we were supportive, if we celebrated instead of lamented.
Maybe we could learn to see other women's ways of being or accomplishments as models for what we could achieve -- or as examples of our glorious diversity -- as opposed to reflections of what we lack.
It took me awhile to see other women as allies, but here's what worked for me.
To start seeing women as allies, I first had to see the strengths and talents within myself and celebrate those.
If we aren't clear on what's so awesome about the woman looking back at us in the mirror, then we won't be able to see other women's positive attributes as anything but slaps in the face.
Liking who we are is all about conscious practice.
Some things we can do each day to keep self-doubt at bay are:
- Say something in the mirror that you like about yourself. (I like my laugh, I like my teeth, I like that I have a sense of humor, I like that I smile at people on the street.)
- Take a compliment. Even if you want to put yourself down after someone says something nice to you, don't. Pause and change your script. Saying thank you is enough.
- Erase "should" from your vocabulary and replace it with "could." Could reminds you that most everything in life is a choice.
And if you're still not sure where to start, this article should help.
Know We Are All the Same
Every person wants to find love, laugh, share, be seen, be heard; likewise, every one of us has at some point felt loss, heartache and disappointment.
If we see one another as human, it's easier to understand why it's so important to care for and support one another. We all want to succeed at what we set out to do, and for us to do so, we must help each other see greatness.
What that means is taking the time to boost one another up instead of pulling each other down.
On the street, if you see a woman who looks beautiful, consider telling them. If your friend says that they got the job they were interviewing for, rejoice with them. If it's someone's first time reading in front of people, congratulate them. If a friend is having a show, go and support them.
This goes for decisions and choices that others make that maybe you don't agree with as well.
It's when we let go of the belief that our truth is the only one that we can easily be there for each other, no matter what.
Learn from Triggers
Although liking myself improved my confidence, I still couldn't help but see others' talents and strengths as personal setbacks -- as if there wasn't enough success to go around in the world.
To change this, what I had to do was start recognizing what it was that was triggering this sense of lack. What specific qualities and characteristics of other women were making me feel less-than?
And it turned out that the triggers were all the qualities that I, too, wanted to possess.
What I had to do was learn how to see these women not as impediments to my dreams, but as living proof that what I desired was possible.
To make this happen, ask yourself what it is about this or that woman that makes you feel this way. What are the qualities of the other that are causing you to feel badly about yourself (she seems happy in her life, she's attractive, she travels)?
Now ask yourself why you don't believe you have these qualities inside you. And then ask what you could do to bring more of these qualities into your life.
Watch Your Words
The way that women talk about other women -- whether it's about what they're wearing or their life choices -- is often harsh and judgmental.
Our words tell the story of how we see each other in the world.
As such, the easiest way for us to create a stronger sense of allegiance to one another is by watching how we speak to and about each other. The best way to keep tabs on what's coming out of your mouth is to be mindful of what it is that you're saying.
Before a comment or a knee-jerk reaction slips out, stop and think about the person. Who is this person? Do you know them? What is human about them? What is their story?
Take the time to get a more accurate picture of the person to see their value. What's positive about this person? After you identify what's positive about the person, then choose your words.
There are so many people out there waiting to rip women apart for not being married, not having kids, having kids at an older age, being working moms, not being working moms -- basically just being however they choose to be.
If we can collectively pay attention to how we see and talk about one another, we could potentially change the backlash and evaluation to acceptance and understanding.
Support Each Other
I used to have a problem around other women who were in the same field as me -- jealous of their success -- but what I learned was that this thought process didn't do much but keep me in the same place.
I started to think about what my life would look like if I collaborated with women in my field, if I got involved in groups and became a part of a dialogue, creating something bigger.
Knowing that we all want to be seen and heard, why don't we create that space for each other?
What if instead of silently beating ourselves up, we reached out to one another? What if instead of exclusion, we focused on inclusion?
If we reach out to one another, what we create is a community - a community of women who support one another.
No longer would we be on our own, trying to navigate and grow.
By coming together and working together -- sharing our strengths, wisdom, and talents with one another - we not only learn from each other, but we also say: I see you, I hear you, and you are worthy.
We create a safe space to be who we are, however we are.
This piece was originally published at Everyday Feminism.