Despite our best intentions, as women our first instinct is often to compare ourselves with the other women around us — their appearances, their relationships, their careers, their talents — which can evoke feelings of envy and awaken an unhealthy sense of competitiveness.
While, in the right settings, competition can be a positive thing (especially when it drives you to put more effort into something) when it comes from a place of envy or comparison, it not only harms our relationships with other women, but it can also damage our self-worth.
Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be that way. In a world where women are still striving for gender equality in many areas, it makes no sense for us to be pitting ourselves against each other. Supporting other women and celebrating their successes can make you much more successful, because it encourages others to do the same for you.
Here’s how to quash that envious mindset and become someone who celebrates other women:
If you admire something about someone, let them know.
Women are known for being hard on themselves and if you’re having a bad day or feeling low on self-esteem, a kind word or simple compliment from someone can make an enormous difference. So the next time you admire something about another woman, don’t just keep it to yourself. Even if it’s a stranger on the subway or someone standing next to you in line at the grocery store, tell them how pretty their eyes are or how lovely they look in that dress or what a nice smile they have. And then watch their faces light up and how they smile to themselves after you leave, reveling in the small boost in self-esteem. Compliments are always worth more when they’re unexpected and they can make a bigger positive impact on someone’s day than you might imagine.
On the flipside, when you have a judgmental thought about another woman (even if it’s just on social media), think about what that says about you and your feelings/self-esteem. Is it something you are sensitive about yourself? To counter it, try thinking of three things you admire about them and why. By gently nudging your mindset into kindness over criticism, you’ll likely receive a boost of self-esteem yourself.
Give others a hand up.
There was a story in the news last year about how women staffers in President Obama’s office devised a subtle way of making sure their opinions were heard (and recognized) in meetings. Each time one woman would make a suggestion or point, another woman in the room would speak up in support of it. Fortunately, Obama, long known as an advocate for women, quickly noted what was happening and made sure to call on the women on his team more often to make sure their voices were heard.
There are many reasons why some women’s ideas and opinions aren’t heard as much as they should be and some of that has to do with our own self-confidence. But we can also help each other by supporting other women and reinforcing their voices, as well as championing their efforts and abilities. If someone has done an amazing job, tell them – and be sure to celebrate them in front of other people.
You may have met one of those rare people who seem so present and captivated by what you are saying that you feel as though you might just be the most interesting person they’ve ever met. Their encouraging smiles, meaningful eye contact and relaxed attentiveness make you feel unbelievably empowered, even if you’re talking about something as mundane as needing to change the ink cartridge in the printer.
It’s so easy to get caught up in our own thoughts and what we need to do that day that we end up only half listening to people when they are talking us. And while they might not say it, there’s a good chance that they’ll notice our inattentiveness, which can be extremely discouraging. (A good way to catch yourself doing this is to take note of when your mind is wandering, or when you are already formulating your response in your head while they’re still speaking.)
So the next time you’re talking to a female friend or coworker, try to actively listen and engage with them, asking thoughtful questions and giving them your full attention. The energy that you send will make them feel appreciated and empowered.
If someone has done an amazing job, tell them – and be sure to celebrate them in front of other people.
Find your team.
As women we have a tendency to downplay our successes or brush them off, but it’s important to have at least one person with whom you can unabashedly celebrate how great you are (mothers can be perfect for this). Find one or two like-minded women who are chasing similar goals as you and make the agreement that you will always be there to cheer on one another’s successes. Give yourselves permission talk about how hard you’ve worked, how proud you are and what it took to get to where you are.
You can also use each other for encouragement when times get tough or to help stay on track to achieve a dream you are chasing. At the beginning of each week or month, share your list of goals with each other and brainstorm ideas for how you can achieve them. Do you want to complete the first chapter of the novel you are writing? Or score a meeting with your dream client? Or perhaps it’s simply to work out a certain amount of time each week. If you have someone to hold you accountable and check in with your progress (giving you encouragement or tough love when you need it), you’re much likely to stay on track. And you’ll have someone to celebrate with when you finally achieve it.
How has celebrating other women made you more successful?
Images via Yuri Orozco Rivera