In this new age of technology and social media, competition is steep. We are able to see snapshots of the best moments in others’ lives. Vacations. Parenting success. Beautiful homes. Exercise classes. Nights out with friends. We don’t see the struggle, the messes, and the conflict that characterize everyone’s life.
Women, in particular, have a reputation for taking the success of others very hard, which turns into insecurity, envy, and the idea that there is not enough success to go around. Although men are taught from a young age that competition is a healthy, important thing, women are taught to protect others emotionally and focus on pleasing others. Dr Margolies states that this leads to an unhealthy avoidance of natural aggression and competition. Instead of being open about our success, we diminish it to protect the feelings of other women. She takes it one step farther in saying that “Autonomy cannot be achieved when actions are based on fear… If women are frightened of aggression in themselves or others and threatened by success, their experience of themselves will be muted, leading to depression. How can women feel comfortable with their own (and other women’s) drive and power, without feeling threatened or worrying that their own success will hurt others?”
Instead of healthy competition with ourselves, we’re often left with unhealthy envy and fear that hinder us from honestly sharing our lives with the women around us. This keeps us from having deep, meaningful relationships and creates a sense of “otherness” that can leave us feeling isolated and alienated from the women who could be our biggest supporters. These habits are essentially cheating us out of community.
So, what can we do? Here are a few ideas to help you connect with the women around you and overcome your fear and insecurity.
- You’re not special
That is to say, your fears, your struggles, the problems you face—women around you face them, too! There’s usually nothing unique about your situation. The fear of judgment that keeps us from sharing our life authentically is just a lie that makes us believe that others are more put together or on top of things than we are. It just isn’t true. We’re all doing the best we can with what we have. We’re all struggling.
- You have nothing to lose
Being vulnerable is a practice that helps us connect with others. When we make a habit of only showing our best side, we alienate people because we’re not being honest. Showing off your weaknesses—struggles, fears, hopes, wants, etc—will only bring you closer to the people who genuinely love and root for you. Bryant McGill, author of Simple Reminders: Inspiration for Living Your Best Life, puts it this way: “We attract what we are. We attract who we are.” If you want to attract kind, accepting, and vulnerable people into your life, you must first become those things.
- There is enough for everyone
Success has no limits. Someone else’s success does not diminish the chances of your own success. Opportunity keeps coming to those who are prepared to greet it. We can celebrate with others without worrying that their success somehow reduces our chances of getting what we want. Our competition is internal, against ourselves and our own insecurities. Understanding this allows us to fully engage in our relationships with others, without the illusion that they’re stealing success away from us. There is always enough good for everyone.
We don’t have to compete with one another. When we overcome the impulse to compare ourselves to others and envy their success, we are able to begin building a community based on support and mutual pursuit of good. Being vulnerable with others helps us become the best version of ourselves, overcome weaknesses, and become more successful in every way.
Don’t get caught in the envy trap. Be honest with yourself and others and make space for others to be honest with you—without judgment!