There’s a saying that behind every successful man there is a woman, but can we say the same for every successful woman? Can you honestly say that when you see a woman absolutely killing it in her chosen profession your first reaction is always positive? Or do you compare yourself unfavourably and feel envious?
If I’m being completely truthful, and as anyone who knows me will tell you, I’m almost pathologically honest, there have been too many times when I’ve been guilty of the less sisterly response. This has usually been because at the time I have felt like I was failing myself and so seeing another woman doing amazingly well felt like an unwelcome reminder of my own lack of achievement. I completely acknowledge that this says a lot more about me than the woman in question. I’m not proud of having felt that way and I know I’m not alone.
A common reaction when a woman in a friendship group loses a significant amount of weight is jealousy, even when it’s a result of the heart break diet. I’m sure we’ve all witnessed the mock concern and transparent attempts to get the new thin friend to eat more, followed by relief when the weight goes back on. If one of our friends drops a dress size suddenly our own excuses for not being able to lose weight look less convincing. So unless we are happy with our own size, our reaction is bound to be tinged with envy.
Human emotions can be conflicting and complicated. When we see a female friend do well, we might genuinely be happy for her even if underneath it makes us feel a bit less than. But I’ve come to realise that there is no cap on happiness or success. Someone else’s success shouldn’t make me any more or less likely to succeed. If someone else is happy that doesn’t mean there is suddenly less happiness to go round. So what if instead of being jealous of other women we felt inspired by them? What if we raised other women up and applauded their achievements rather than made snide comments behind their backs?
I recently had the pleasure of enjoying some quality time with a group of amazing women I used to work with. We’ve all gone off in very different directions and all experienced our own fair share of challenges over the years but our friendship has remained constant. In fact when times have been really tough we have been a reliable source of support for each other. I want to see these women do well and be happy because I care about them and they deserve it. I don’t feel like I’m in competition with them in any way.
As I get older I feel a deeper sense of empathy and respect with the sisterhood in general. There are so many life changing experiences you go through as a woman that only other women can really understand and appreciate. This applies whether you get married or not, whether you have children or don’t. We share so much and all know what it is to live in a man’s world. So from now on when I see another woman doing well I will use her example as a source of inspiration. I want to champion women because frankly women are pretty damn amazing. Note that I’m not knocking men here, simply recognising the beauty of womanhood. When we support each other both emotionally and in practical ways, we all benefit. There is strength in numbers, imagine how much easier things would be if we could rely on each other.
Too many women I know don’t recognise their own talents and attributes and I wonder if this is at the heart of all the comparisonitis. When we feel happy in our skin we want to share our happiness, but when we are unhappy we can almost resent those who have what we feel we don’t. In my group of friends we all see each other’s qualities so clearly but struggle to see our own. So many women, myself included, are weighed down by guilt and held back by a lack of self belief. We too often put our own self care way down our list of priorities or sacrifice our happiness for others.
So from now on I’m making a concerted effort to support other women at every available opportunity and I am starting with myself, because until we believe in ourselves we can’t expect anyone else to do the same.