As women it can be easy to slip into the trap of comparing ourselves against our friends, celebrities and other women we see on social media. This can often lead to feelings of jealousy and tearing each other down because of what they have and we don’t. With endless media scrutiny it almost feels like this behaviour is being encouraged to a certain extent. Through the media and the internet, we are constantly being shown photographs of celebrities who are either “too skinny” or “piling on the pounds”, or articles about women who “work too much when they have children” or “don’t work hard enough for their kids”. It may start to feel that as women, no matter what we do, we can’t win…
The competition between women is often covert, with competing rearing its head in the form of constantly trying to do better than the women around us. Whilst wanting to better oneself can be a positive step, doing it for the wrong reasons and at the expense of others is not. Picking at someone else's success is something that we can feel hardwired to do to make ourselves feel equal or better; she’s beautiful and popular, but she argues with her husband so it’s okay, shes is really successful but she’s overweight. Dwelling on these thoughts and feelings can have a negative impact on your self image and estrange you from female friendships.
Friendships with other women are incredibly important to our wellbeing. Other women fulfil a role in our lives that a partner or family members don’t. So how do we do that, and learn to cultivate friendships with other women, rather than falling into the comparison trap?
Commit to not comparing
We all know that social media is just a highlight reel for other people’s lives, with most people only posting the good bits that they want to show off. This makes comparing your apples to someone else’s oranges a losing game. Even if you catch up to them, and you have what they have, there will still be someone else out there with more than you have. Although it can be hard to not fall into this trap with social media right under our noses, avoiding comparing your life to others will benefit you in the long run.
Admitting when you feel jealous can be one of the hardest things, to yourself and to others. Next time you feel yourself comparing your life to someone else’s, admit that your negative feelings are just because you are a little bit jealous. Instead of thinking “how did she get that promotion over me; I’m clearly better”, admit that there is no real injustice and tell her the truth.... “I am so happy for you, but I feel rubbish for myself”. This vulnerability will allow your friend to feel vulnerable too, and she might even admit something she was jealous about you too.
Remember we are allies, not rivals
The media often portrays female friendships as toxic and that we secretly all hate each other, determined to pit us against one another. Do you really hate your female friends? The answer probably is no. It is more likely that we just feel intimidated by them. There are very few women who want to succeed at someone else’s expense, and the likelihood is that the women in your life are not one of them.
Accept that one “best friend” probably can’t do the job
Long gone are the days when we were in school and had that one ride or die “best friend”. That one friend you did absolutely everything with, and you would feel left out if you didn’t have one. As we mature, our hobbies, interests and emotions become more complex and we can no longer rely on one person to wear all of those hats. Instead of putting all of our expectations onto one person, look at the qualities each individual friend brings to your life. One friend might be your go to for a girly night’s in, the other might be more suited to a girls night out.
Having female friends in your life is extremely important, they fill a gap that family and partners cannot. If you are lucky enough to have amazing female friends, reach out to others who don’t. If you see someone standing on their own, take the opportunity to get to know more about them, even if it is just a smile and a ‘hello’. As my mother says, it costs nothing to be nice. You can never have enough friends. That person staying by themselves may just need a friendly face like yours.
You don’t need to compare yourself with anyone; you are fine just as you are. Celebrate the women around you… even if you’re sometimes quite jealous of what they have!