Do you know about shine theory? I didn’t either until I read this piece by Ann Friedman about Beyonce and Kelly Rowland. The idea, in a nutshell, is that instead of competing with powerful women or feeling jealous about their success, you befriend them. “I don’t shine if you don’t shine,” Friedman quotes one of her friends saying, and thus the term “shine theory.” It’s the idea that strong and powerful women make great friends, because they want to help other women they admire succeed—not take them down.
And the idea is starting to gain traction. On January 10th, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez even referenced it in a tweet about imposter syndrome.
After I read the Friedman article, I resolved to apply the idea in my everyday life. And you know what? It made a huge difference for the better in everything from my hobbies to my career. Here’s what happened when I decided to stop being jealous and start celebrating the successful women in my life.
In my career: I kept running into a reporter for a competing news site at various events and meetings we were both covering. Instead of competing in a rivalry, we eventually starting talking and realized we had a lot in common. We became friends, and when her company was looking for freelancers, she came to me first with the scoop.
In sports: I started playing with a roller derby outfit a few months ago. When I first got there, it was clear to me my skating skills were roughly on par with another girl named Lisa. My first instinct was to feel a sting of envy and a compulsion to compete with her. But I’m so glad I ignored it. Over time, we’ve become friends, helping each other master some moves and hanging out together after practice.
In comedy: This winter, I took a women-only intro to standup class called the Feminine Comique. I was nervous, because I am a writer first and a performer second…or maybe fifth. The pressure of trying to be funny and make it appear effortless felt overwhelming at the start, but every week my classmates laughed and lifted each other up. By the end of the five-week class, I felt like we’d all been through boot camp together. Everyone in the class got better and supported each other.
In creative endeavors: Through that same class, I met a girl who runs a live literature show, where writers read or perform true first-person narratives. She asked me to read at her show, which thrilled me. After the show, I told her I was thinking of starting my own. Instead of seeing me as competition, she was extremely encouraging. I was glad to have the advice of someone who’d already accomplished something I hoped to do down the road.
In the office: My boss and I tag-team projects a lot, but we always make sure to give each other credit when we’re commended for doing a great job. I’ve been in jobs before where that wasn’t always the case, and I appreciate the level of respect and admiration she and I have for each other and what we do. It also goes a long way toward achieving a peaceful work/life balance.
In my writing: My writers group of mostly women is so important to me. I think many young female writers can easily be discouraged by people who might not like their work right off the bat. My group is always kind and uplifting but also offers valuable, constructive criticism. They consistently make my work better, and I am never more confident in a piece than after I’ve gotten their input.
I’m sure you’ve got some stories of your own in which shine theory came into play. It’s no secret: A rising tide lifts all boats.