Written by Keely Maree
Whenever we tune into any sort of social media,there is this feeling of being constantly bombarded with images of men and women that are there to make us feel inadequate. It’s easy enough to place the blame on celebrities, but we are all guilty of posting to the world a snapshot of our lives that only represent a fraction of who we are as a whole person.
All too often, we are left passing harsh judgement on ourselves for not living up to the impossible standards that our fascination with social media offers and allowing ourselves to pass judgement on others, often unfairly. It leaves us emotionally vulnerable to feeling anxious, depressed and unworthy.
But it begs the question, why do women feel the need to compete and bring each other down?
Every woman has had an experience with either being made to feel isolated or been guilty of perpetuating the isolation of another.
Studies and theories suggest that women are taught from childhood to be treat other girls as their competition. When little girls play together, they are told that they have to share everything equally, to be nice to everyone and basically equalize the dynamics of their group. This mentality is carried into adulthood, usually subconsciously. When women see another woman, who seemingly has it all – often playing into an existing insecurity they are already carrying about their own sense of worth – it is almost a natural reaction to want to bring her back to an even playing field and that can often mean tactics like isolation, public humiliation and even sabotage. Add the filtered aspect of social media into the mix and suddenly women are left feeling more inadequate than ever, perpetuating this awful cycle of separateness.
In the formative years, family is the predominant influence on how little girls are conditioned to understand the concept of group dynamics. In a conventional setting, mum and dad are the first point of reference for how gender stereo-types are portrayed. This phenomenon has shifted over the decades with family dynamics consisting of many incarnations. But as children, we first to regard and absorb the ideas and behaviors that our adult carers offer to us. When girls are told that they need to look pretty, it tells them they have to be conscious of their appearance. When a girl is given certain toys to play that are correlated with their gender, they are told that certain roles are for women. When girls are told they can't play a sport or join in an activity because its for boys, they understand that only certain inclusions will be offered to them.
There is always exceptions to the status quo and it is changing, but obviously not enough, as women are still seeking to destroy each other on an emotional level every single day.
School changes everything for girls. It is when they first learn about social hierarchies and how they will ultimately fit in with them. Girls are told to play nice, but as every woman you will ever speak to will agree, girls are anything but nice. There's this undercurrent of hostility and manipulation that begins from early days in the school yard and intensifies with age. So many women will agree that girls can seek to obliterate each other on a level that can only be interpreted as personal and soul crushing.
In the early school years, it can be as seemingly simple as excluding one girl from the group because she didn't do as she was told, to "forgetting" to invite her to a birthday party to name calling. As adults, we can look back and laugh or brush it off as not as serious as we thought at the time, but at that age, it was one of the most hurtful lessons we could learn. And ultimately, little girls learn to find their place in the social hierarchy and that determines self esteem and what they are willing to do to establish their position.
And little girls grow up.
The ideas girls create in their younger years are stored deep in their psych and are further ingrained when these young girls step into the work force for the first time. Usually, at very complicated time in their life, adolescence. Often without the knowledge and tools to effectively deal with yet another set of social dynamics.
In school, there are people designated to protect the students. There's a clear pathway and usually a known protocol, but in a workplace, the lines are less clear and young women now need to find a way to fend for themselves. It can be the first time girls have found themselves needing to compete directly with boys, favoritism and even sexual harassment. Young women learn that hierarchies are more important in the workplace and that to get ahead, sometimes boundaries and principles are stretched. It can be here that young women learn to compete not just with the boys, but with each other and their early formative years are often dredged up.
Young women learn that cliques help them feel protected, but are fickle and can dissolve just as quickly as they appear. Young women nurture the "be nice" concept, but weaponize the years hostility and manipulation. Young women will endure sexual harassment and bullying, because to speak up may have ramifications for them. Young women learn that to earn a job means they have to harden themselves.
You see women are unfairly leveraged. If a woman is assertive in an authority role, she is often looked at less favorably than a male in the same role. She is expected to soften her approach for fear of alienating other women, but if a man is direct, then that is accepted. If a woman in the work place feels that another woman is climbing the ladder ahead of her, it can often be viewed as creating unequal footing, favoritism or that the woman is not a team player. The fact is that in the workplace, women are still very unequally represented in higher ranking positions and that because of this disproportion, women see these roles as harder to get and therefore their own gender is working against them. When a woman steps into a leadership role, the expectations of how she handles that position is tempered somewhat by her ability to relate to other women.
The reality is, women are set-up from a young age to compete with each other.
But in truth, an empowered woman can un-attach herself from this concept of lack of abundance, because when she does, she begins to empower other women too.
When a woman steps into her power, she decides to create an environment where everyone feels heard and seen. Because no longer is there an element of fear concerning a woman getting ahead and essentially unbalancing the dynamics of equal ascension.
The empowered woman has made peace with living in the masculine energy of western society and has found peace in balancing her yin and yang. When her energies are in harmony, she can invite others to feel comfortable to do the same. Any person, who seeks to bring her down is released from her sphere of influence and left to seek their own path. An empowered woman can't carry other peoples prejudice, only lead by example she sets.
Women who empower each other celebrate and commiserate with their fellow feminine, without judgement. They want to build up their community and understand that there is enough joy for everyone to have a piece. There is no growth or happiness in taking a step forward if that step means stepping on other people to get there. Celebrating the success of others does not diminish your own.
Women have to come to terms with the obvious fact that no-one is perfect. Social media builds up a beautiful snapshot, but it is not reality. When a woman celebrates her flaws and screams them out into the world, she is abandoning the concepts she has learned through-out her life. She is telling the world to see her as she is and love her, flaws and all. She understands that the woman who seemingly has it all is probably struggling with the same thing she is.
As women, we need to realise that when we work together, everybody wins.