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March 17, 2011

Women and Success: Are You Courageous Enough?

IStock_00womanhands stretchedto skyall  As I watch my daughter navigate the minefields of Junior High, I am struck by the level of competitiveness among the girls.  Although they were once great friends, it seems that hormones and boys have kicked things up quite a bit.  Many girls are now struggling to find their place.  And if they have to step on Sally, Mary or Sarah on their way to finding the place they want in Junior High, then that is acceptable to them.  In fact, stepping on others during the journey is even better if it means the other girls have to take a spot “below” them.  What better way to show the world how great they are?

I wish I could say this cutthroat behavior is developmental and most girls grow out of it, but unfortunately that is not the case.  Most girls grow up to be women who continue to vie for the attention of men and a place at the top of the popularity pyramid.  Not surprisingly, the women who fought the most to get men’s attention and be the most popular often turn out to be the unhappiest.  In their struggle to get to the top, they lost too much of themselves along the way.

Too often, we women, are our own worst enemies.  We continually look for validation of our worth outside of ourselves.  In this hunt for validation, we end up stepping on the very women for whom we should be cheering.  Until women can see one another as a blessing in our lives, rather than a threat to our existence, we will continue to keep women kind down. 

I challenge women to dare to change the way we interact, dare to find ourselves without squashing others and dare to stand in unity rather than isolation from one another. Living with courage looks like:
•    Owning our successes.  Too many of us downplay our successes so others don’t feel bad, threatened or jealous in our presence.  We simply don’t want to be too big for our britches.  This is crazy thinking.  Be proud, be excited and celebrate your successes.  As long as you do so “cleanly” -- without trying to prove you’re better than others—you’re good.
•    Supporting the successes of other women.  Celebrating the successes of other women is just as important as celebrating your own.  Encourage, support, compliment, share ideas; don’t sabotage, criticize or minimize the success of another.
•    Cherishing our families and the families of fellow women.  Refuse to take another woman’s man under any circumstances.  When women have affairs they burn their own house down as well as the house of another.  You deserve better, your family deserves better and other women deserve better. 
•    Honoring the humanity of other women.  Refuse to gossip about, condemn or diminish another woman in your words or actions.  You can set a limit, tell them you’re upset and hold them accountable when necessary, without trying to diminish their spirit or sense of worth. 
•    Treat other women as you would have other women treat you.  Period.

There is too much back-stabbing, gossip and general hurtful treatment going on among women.  This type of treatment is hurting all of us.  If we continue to struggle to treat one another well, our daughters will struggle to find their ways, men will continue to take advantage of our competition and we will continue to lose ourselves.  We are stronger together than any one of us could possibly be alone.  I challenge all of us to find the courage to stand in unison, have each other’s backs and dare to encourage one another to be all we can be.

Challenge: Get conscious.  Pay attention to all the ways you hear yourself and other women keep one another down.  Stop yourself when you’re aware of doing this and speak to others when you see them do it.  Feel the internal shift in you that happens as a result.

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Yes, it's so easy to subtly exclude or devalue another woman, not out of any real spite but almost out of some unfortunate neanderthal instinct (and I consider myself a nice person)!
I think what it comes down to, for me at least, is "if you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all". The world could use more kind silence, and less verbal warfare.
Unfortunately, what youre discusssing in this article plays out in other, more subtle but no less hostile ways. But restraining our tongues is a start...

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