As a feminist, I’m endlessly inspired by other women. I champion those who’ve built outstanding careers, and I look up to those who demand to have their voices heard. In my mind, I’ve created a metaphorical ‘Hall of Fame’ to rival Regina George’s burn-book, in which I document every woman who’s ever made a positive impression on my life. From friends and family members, to inspiring celebrities and fictional characters, they’re my go-to for when I need a boost; when the red smoke descends and I need to find my cool, I channel Miranda Priestly, the Queen of Dignified Frustration; when I feel like I’ll never write another word again, I remember Liz Gilbert’s TED Talk on the necessity of failure in creativity; and when I can’t seem to drag myself out of bed and into work, I call upon Kimmy Schmidt for a little burst of inner sunshine! I owe so much to the women who’ve inspired me to work hard, fight clever, and be proud of what I’ve achieved. But I have to make a confession.
Despite being a feminist, and believing that, for the most part, women should support each other, I still have moments when I feel resentful towards those who have achieved success. Now, I know I’m not alone in seeing a flash of green when a celebratory Facebook post crops up on my newsfeed, or an adoring magazine article falls into my lap. I know this because society has bred a culture of competition amongst women. We’re constantly forced to compare our bodies and our fashion choices, and the same can be said for our achievements. Recognise any of the following phrases? ‘How did she land that job? I’ve been working for two years longer! – I bet her grades were just a fluke! – Well, I could do that too if [insert judgemental comment].’ If so, don’t fret. It’s easy to get competitive in a world where we’re told that if we’re not the cream of the crop, we won’t get noticed. But envy is the enemy of inspiration, and those moments you spend stewing over someone else’s success are moments that you’ve lost in your mission to be your best self!
It took a good few years for me to take control of my green-eyed monster, and I still have days when I find myself scrolling through an old school friends’ Instagram, brooding with jealousy over their new home or once-in-a-lifetime trip to Bali. But in those moments, I recall an article written by Ann Friedman, the co-host of my favourite podcast, Call Your Girlfriend. Ann’s article for The New Yorker heralded the new age of ‘shine theory’ in feminism, which urges women to stop competing with each other, because life is not a rerun of Destiny’s Child, and we shouldn’t resent the Beyoncés in our lives. Ann writes: ‘When you meet a woman who is intimidatingly witty, stylish, beautiful, and professionally accomplished, befriend her. Surrounding yourself with the best people doesn’t make you look worse by comparison. It makes you better.’ And the same goes for women outside of your social group! If you’re reading someone’s blog posts through a green-tinted screen, or throwing bad vibes at a co-worker who just landed a promotion, buckle up and get friendly!
I’ve found that the best way to tackle the competition is to support it! Tell that fantastic writer how much you love their work. Congratulate your friend on their new job. And if you see that person struggling, don’t gloat – offer to help! Because here’s the thing… if you work hard enough, and support others who are grafting just as much as you, you’ll get to where you need to be. And at some point in the future, you’ll be the inspiration. You’ll be that smart, successful, ‘together’ woman. And you’ll need the support of those around you.
So just remember, I don’t shine if you don’t!