Great is the power of support offered by others. Even greater is the meaningful support offered by those who walked or are walking a similar path. Magic happens when women uplift and empower other women. I’ve laughed harder, grieved more productively, believed in myself, and grown in more ways than I can recall thanks to the countless women who chose to share their light, wisdom, experience, talents, kindness, and an occasional much-needed kick in the butt with me. To all the women who made my life better – THANK YOU!
Sadly, this kind of support is not always shown. “Women are complicated. While most of us want to be kind and nurturing, we struggle with our darker side – feelings of jealousy, envy, and competition. While men tend to compete in an overt manner – jockeying for position and fight to be crowned ‘winners’ – women often compete more covertly and behind the scenes. This covert competition and indirect aggression is at the heart of mean behavior among women at work.” (Katherine Crowley and Kathi Elster, co-authors of Mean Girls at Work: How to Stay Professional when Things Get Personal)
Competitive tendencies among women go back centuries and predate the race for a promotion or the battle for more likes on social media. This research indicates that women trying to undermine each other’s success might be due to an evolutionary instinct to compete for limited resources (i.e. food, shelter, mates). In other words, it’s a survival mechanism. Add the variety of “every woman for herself” messages that may get ingrained into women’s minds by social norms and we get a poisonous cocktail of “I’m rooting for you, girl!” and “I secretly hope you don’t do as well as me”. Not only does this line of thought often leads to sabotaging others, it also prevents us from reaching our own full potential.
Everyone’s life journey is unique and filled with obstacles. Some challenges, however, disproportionately impact women around the globe. There is strength in numbers. So, ladies, what do you say we make a pact to choose to bless the lives of other women, in ways big and small? Sharing what I found helpful:
- Understanding that I am not my thoughts. When a jealous or envious thought toward another woman surfaces, I make note of it and choose to behave in a kind, supportive way. I try not to let the thought dictate my actions but treat it as a sign that there’s something I need to explore within myself (i.e. a hidden insecurity or an unmet need).
- Embracing my strengths and cultivating self-love. The more secure I am, the more confidence I have in my abilities to reach my goals and create the life I desire, the less unhealthy competitive tendencies surface.
- Leaning into an abundance mindset. There are plenty of crowns to go around. Ninety-seven percent of me truly believes that (which took work!). Then there’s the remaining three percent still rooted in a scarcity mindset – growing up in poverty really “helped” with this one.
- A small act of kindness can make a big impact. It cost me nothing to give a compliment to a woman standing in the checkout line in front of me. The reaction of a woman eating by herself at the table next to me when I secretly paid for her dinner was priceless. Sending a “You got this!” text to a girl-friend who is nervous to give a presentation only took a couple of seconds.
- Agreeing to disagree. Prefer cashew milk in your coffee over almond milk? Cereal for dinner? Flare over skinny jeans? Whatever works for you! When differences get in the way of genuine connection and mutual respect, I lean into curiosity and suspend judgement of other women’s choices about their bodies, careers, parenting style, etc.
- Helping other women reach their goals and celebrate successes. This doesn’t mean minimizing your own accomplishments or disregarding your goals – lift as you climb and share the spotlight. “If you’ve already “made it,” don’t unintentionally haze other women by putting them through the same challenges you faced over the course of your career. Send the elevator back down!” Mentor, coach, advocate.
- Supporting women-owned or operated businesses. Looking for something to do this weekend or for a last-minute gift? Check one or more of these out:
- Offering meaningful support. “How can I be of value to you today?” Instead of supporting other women the way I would prefer to be supported in any given situation, I find out what they actually need.
What will you do to break the cycle of rivalry amongst women?