Jennifer Still
June 10, 2013 1:30 pm

Replace the word “pretty” in the title with an adjective of your choice – smart, funny, skinny, etc. – and raise your hand if you haven’t thought or even spoken this aloud at least once before in your life. Maybe another girl got the job, the boyfriend, the dress you wanted; maybe that girl was an enemy, maybe she was your best friend. In the harsh afterburn of falling just short of something – whatever it is we were so longing for – the successful person, the one who made it just that bit further, becomes an easy object of scorn. Admit it; we’ve all been there.

Envy is, after all, quite a natural response to the reality that some people are in possession of things we want – and sometimes things we think we’ve worked harder for than those who actually have them. Why should she have gotten the promotion when I’ve stayed late five times this month? Why did he pick her to go on a date with when she’s not even that pretty? It goes on and on, and if you don’t curb it, it’s not long before you’re treading down an incredibly self-destructive path.

This is by no means a phenomenon limited to women, but it certainly applies to us more. We’ve internalized the centuries of impossible societal standards which have continually tried to convince us that we’re not good enough and we spend our whole lives trying to prove that wrong, to overcome and outdo. The fight is imbued in us, part of our genetic programming at this point, and that’s fair enough. Plus, a little competition is healthy for anyone – it pushes us to be the best versions ourselves we can be. The problem arises when we, as women, start aiming for each other. But it’s one thing for prey to be wary of its predator and entirely another when an animal turns on its own kind.

That our initial instinct is not to share in the joy of our fellow ladies and instead to scrutinize, nitpick and sometimes be outright haters towards them for their successes and life choices is a big problem. It’s not enough that women statistically feel more judged by their own gender for their physical appearance and sexual choices (among other things) – now we’re giving one another the same messages society has been giving us for years: you’re not good enough, and whatever space you’ve clawed out for yourself in this world, you’re not worthy of.

I’m a strong believer in the power of positivity, no matter how hippie-dippy that makes me sound. The thoughts and vibes, if you will, that you put out into the world mentally, emotionally and yes, socially with your closest girlfriends attracts and repels certain types of energy. It may feel good to have that two hour bitchfest with your BFF about how so-and-so dresses really slutty and that’s the only reason Todd wanted to go out with her, but what good does that do anyone and what truth is there to it? We can’t grow as a society or as human beings when we’re dedicating so much time cementing those same principals we claim to want to destroy.

Here’s an idea that may be a little hard to accept, but try it on for size: a victory for one of us is a victory for all of us. In an ideal world, we wouldn’t have to make such a big deal about women in particular career fields, or women bucking the socially constructed norms of sexuality, body image and the like. However, until that day comes, it IS a big deal, so any lady out in the world doing her thing – even if it’s not YOUR thing – deserves nothing but support, admiration and genuine enthusiasm and joy from her fellow females. By solidifying the link between women and refusing to waste time and energy on tearing each other down, we not only make way for us to truly make waves as a whole, but also in our personal lives. After all, it feels so much better to be happy for someone than it does to be seething with misplaced jealousy or anger. At the end of the day, the woman you’re spending so much time hating on is still doing her thing, while you’re stalled in the pit of your own illogical emotions.

So, your friend was hired for a job you wanted; so a girl you went to high school with married the guy you thought you were meant to be with forever. So what? Instead of egging yourself on with all the reasons you were better, you deserved it more – or worse, why she doesn’t deserve it at all – concentrate on finding pleasure in others’ happiness and in knowing that, regardless of your beliefs, the world has a way of working things out the may they’re meant to happen, even if it’s not how we planned it all out in our heads. It’s not another woman’s fault that your grand aspirations turned out a bit differently than you’d have hoped – rather, the path you thought you’d take was the path she was meant to, and yours is still being laid out. In other words, don’t sweat the small shit. Keep working hard, keep believing in yourself and the world around you, and you can still have it. There’s room for more than one amazing woman in the world, you know.

What I’m saying here isn’t novel, nor is it particularly deep – and it’s not meant to be. However, it’s a message we all too easily forget and are encouraged to. After all, if we’re spending so much time as women fighting and talking each other down, then there’s not much left for kicking ass and taking names in the wider world, which means nothing will change. Forming a united front may not solve all our problems, but it can form a solid shield to fight back with, and that’s a good place to start.

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