Last night, I was watching the documentary Miss Representation (which you should totally check out on Netflix) and something was said that stuck with me - women are hard on each other. It's such a simple assertion, but the more that I think about it, the more I realize just how true it is. We have been conditioned from birth to be hypercritical of not only ourselves, but other women too. We criticize physical appearance, fashion choices, parenting techniques, life choices - everything. We are judgmental and often distrustful, but there is hope.
All around me, I see women making a conscious effort to lift up others, but while posting empowering messages on Facebook and Instagram is a good start, it's not enough. We can do more, we have to do more if we truly want to empower the women around us. So where do you start? How can you be the change you wish to see in the world?
First, shut down the negative feedback. Think before you speak: Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it helpful? Is it kind? Name calling, judging, and catty underhanded comments don't serve anyone. In fact, according to an article posted by the Mayo Clinic, "There's a science behind that phenomenon called "loving kindness." And research shows that learning and practicing loving kindness can profoundly affect your attitude, outlook and even your health."
Second, be supportive of other women. An article from the Boston Globe sites a study published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences which found "... that the most successful female job-seekers from a top-ranked graduate school relied not only on a wide network of contacts, but also on a close inner circle of other women who provide support and gender-specific job advice." In other words, when women support women, incredible things happen. Reach out and look for like minded women in online groups like Conk's Community or start/join groups where you work. Be receptive when other women reach out to you by being welcoming and inclusive.
Third, spread the love. I know that might sound like something out of the hippie movement of the 1960's, but they didn't have it all wrong. When you have the opportunity to compliment someone, do it. And let's work on pointing out more than just a great haircut, weight loss, or a rockin pair of jeans. Let's give kudos to academic achievements, business wins, and artistic accomplishments. And share this news with others. Share inspiring stories about female entrepreneurs, about women who are killing it, about the women who matter to you.
At the end of the day, it is up to us to create a positive, supportive environment that lifts women up instead of tearing them down.
I'm a blogger and educator breaking through stigmas and helping women find their voice.