Today is International Women’s Day. Manchester is inundated by images and stories of women who in our past, have demonstrated strength, intellect and social influence. But more interestingly, this day, and the events that surround it, provides a platform for women to meet other women, creating stronger support networks to increase influence and community for future generations. It is, however, easy to shy away from powerful women that intimidate us, and avoid those who’s success, wit and intelligence make us feel less so.
Friedman suggests that “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.” (read the full article here , listen to the podcast here, and I was made aware of shine theory through this video)
Of course the idea of supporting your female peers and befriending those who inspire you to become a better person is not a new thing but it is a comforting feeling to have your thoughts validated in a much more articulate way, and I find solace in other women who also share this internal struggle to find the positive in other women’s success. The public and internal struggle of being a women is often correlated with the notion that we are always in competition with other females: those who we spend our daily lives interacting with, others we see in the media, others we have never and will never meet, our bodies, our intellect, our professional accomplishments and love lives are compared against those who may have similar or completely different life experiences. Women who only live in the legacy of history books, and those who are only in the infancy of their journey.
I sometimes have a difficult time with this because I am a naturally jealous person – something I am deeply frustrated about and trying to change. We measure ourselves by the success or failures of others, which is in effect magnetised by so many dangerous external factors. Mean Girls, Bring It On, Bridemaids (to name a few) – these mainstream films with female heavy casts make light of female competition between other women resulting in catty and “undesirable” behaviour. It has been normalised that women do not compete in sports, but compete with each other in the name of “woman-ness”
As an all girls high school survivor, and someone who has lived almost two decades without the comforts and support of a mother, I have had a turbulent relationship with the idea of surrounding myself with the successes of other women. And when social media is a prominent part of our lives there is that endless stream of women who seem to have it all scrolling down our computer screens. We restrict our public lives to the highlights, a curated history that unintentionally (or perhaps intentionally) make me sad, and ignites feelings of ordinaryness in the presence of extraordinary women.
But jealously, in short, is such a waste of an emotion.
Shine theory is clearly about seeking out those relationships that we are sometimes afraid of having in fear of our egos being dulled by the shine of others. We should consciously embrace the shine of others, which will, in time, make us shine as a result. It is important to support and celebrate those achievements, to create positive communities and build stronger female friendships, leading to much richer personal journeys.
There is great truth in Ann Friedman’s shine theory that surrounding ourselves with the best people, will make us better.