It’s hard being a woman among other women.
Recently—it’s been on my mind a lot for lots of different reasons.
If you’re a woman—you know exactly what I mean without any explanation needed.
I’ve struggled with it my entire life. It only takes a second for your confidence to get bruised when you see that other woman around your same age look you up and down in the grocery line, one eyebrow raised judgmentally. And we’ve all had the experience of hearing the loud “whisper” about our hair, our jeans, or our tattoo from a group of women nearby where we pretend to not hear and we pretend we don’t care.
But it hits you.
And it does bring you down.
We’re constantly measuring each other up, flipping through Facebook feeds with critical eyes, feeling punches of jealousy, or worse—little chords of dislike.
It’s a disease among our culture, I think—to hate the sound of someone else’s success, to hate the look of someone else’s confidence, to pick a part the quirks of someone who threatens us in some way. It’s a horrible epidemic among women especially to raise ourselves up by standing on the shoulders of others and by slowly pushing them into the dirt with dirty glances, cutting words, and even a lack of friendship.
We place far too much emphasis on what makes a perfect woman and then when we glimpse the ideals of our “perfect woman” we hate it. We get jealous of it. We feel bad because we aren’t it.
It’s such a vicious, infected, contagious disease and we’re all getting sicker.
I’ll never forget the moment that made me realize I wanted to be a woman that empowers—and doesn’t demean. I was in a gymnasium for cheer tryouts and I had my little cheer outfit on and my hair was tied in a bow. I felt good about myself and confident about the routine that I had practiced in my backyard the weekend before. I was SO excited to be part of the squad.
But as I stood in line, tennis shoes perfectly white and ready against the shiny floor, I heard the mutters of a few girls who stood fairly close to me.
“Why is Kayla even here?” one of them said. “She doesn’t even have the look.”
“And her a** is huge,” another one said. That brought about a stream of giggles from them, and cloudy eyes from me.
My confidence tanked in that moment. It didn’t matter how much I rehearsed prior or how pretty I felt that morning when I looked in the mirror. Suddenly, I didn’t want to be there. Suddenly I felt ugly in a group of pretty girls. I hadn’t struggled with body image much up til then, but that was the first day that I saw the power women have over other women and how deeply we consider the opinions of other women, even subconsciously.
But we can change that.
If we have such great power to tear other women down, imagine the power we have to empower them too.
Because I’m a blogger and put myself on center stage quite often with that exposure, going through a life transition such as my divorce has been rough while standing naked in a room of clothed and judgmental people. I have had my fair share of feeling like I’m standing in my high school gym again, eyes to the floor, listening to the giggles of mean girls. Believe me—it can get bad.
I’ve struggled with those from my side as well as Jeff’s who have said horrible things, who have commented on my looks or my intelligence or even my authenticity, who have compared me to others, and who have tried hard to tear me down and make me doubt myself.
And I have to wonder, somewhat painfully, if I’m embedded into the memory of a woman out there somewhere who heard me say something rude or who caught my eye when I casted a judgmental look or who had me show little support when she needed it the most. I hope I’m not in a memory such as that.
But if so, I hope she’ll be built up by another to make up for what I could have destroyed.
Because we rise when we lift where we stand.
As we push others to feel amazing about their bodies, we tend to feel great about our own. When we smile and show a kind face, we invite sunshine not only into their lives, but our own. When we call out successes and talk highly about someone else, we not only elevate their self-worth, but we remind ourselves of the goodness around us and within us.
When we find beauty, we become beautiful.
And we begin to rise.
There is no competition between us, despite what the magazines and the movies and the social media posts try to convince us of.
We’re here to love, to empower, to cheer on, and to serve. Especially as women in a world that is sometimes tailored to fit us into a particular mold—we are here to break boundaries, to root on the unconventional, to steer clear of the notion that our faces or bodies are not good enough–and to celebrate our uniqueness and recognize our similarities.
I’m amazed and strengthened by the women in my life who lift on a continual basis.
Just last week my former sister-in-law reached out to me and planned a day at the tulip festival here in Washington. She wanted to meet my new little family and she wanted to continue our friendship, despite the falling out between families, the divorce, and the ugly reputation I had gained on that side of the fence.
She didn’t judge. She didn’t shake her head at the changes I’ve made. She didn’t compare herself to me and knock me down while feeling a little bit better and higher. Instead, they embraced us. They loved on my step kid. They laughed with us and ate dinner with us and took pictures. They decided to empower us and fuel our joy and send the message that they support us and love us no matter what.
They straightened my crown.
And that’s all it takes.
We all know that sinking feeling—that pit in your stomach that creeps its way to your heart.
The feeling of comparing our insecurities to other’s strengths. The feeling of wishing the reflection would change or the scale would move or that we could be just as smart or just as funny or just as beautiful as that “other” woman. We’ve all been there—so it’s time for us to recognize that and take away those moments for one another. It’s time for us to reach over and readjust the mirror and point out the beauty. It’s time for us to use our power and our strength to lift others.
That’s our duty as women, I believe. To stand out in a world that judges and destroys and gossips and points out weakness— and to instead lift, and compliment, and build up and speak beautiful things.
Lift where you stand. In a high school gym—in a grocery line—in a church pew—around your own daughters–or even in a social media thread.
Lift—and you’ll strengthen others while strengthening your own heart.
Lift—and you’ll feel the love you give.
Lift—and you will rise too.