Several weeks ago I was reading about the totally absurd "twitter feud" between Kim Kardashian and other (mostly) female celebrities regarding a nude selfie she posted. Given the state of the world we live in, and how our country is potentially on the brink of major change, there are obviously topics more worthy of our time than what Kim K is (or isn't) wearing. But it got me thinking... Even the women whom, as a culture, we have deemed the most successful and most beautiful -- the ones we obsessively watch and strive to look like, or dress like, or live like -- are tearing one another down.
Yes, I realize this is a generalization and I'm not suggesting that everyone wants to be like a celebrity. And let me be abundantly clear here. I am also NOT trying to make a statement about who should (or shouldn't) be considered a role model to girls and women. My feelings about the Kardashian phenomenon are irrelevant, as are your personal feelings about Kim K. My point here is that we've made it the norm for women to tear one another down rather than lift one another up.
WHAT is that about? As a woman, you can stand for something without putting another woman down. You can promote the importance of teaching girls that their worth is determined by so much more than their bodies (MORE OF THIS PLEASE) without shaming another woman for embracing her body. In fact, I'd love to see more women, ones of all shapes and sizes, embracing their bodies in whatever way feels good to them. The two ideals don't have to conflict one another. We can, and should, be teaching women to take care of and appreciate the bodies they are in so that they can focus more of their energy and extraordinary talents on things other than their physical appearances.
I think back to my days in college (a very difficult point in my life) where some of the brightest, most driven and talented young women had earned an opportunity to do just about anything. But you know what I remember? I remember a lot of fortunate girls sitting around commenting on what another girl was wearing. Or what bag she was carrying. Or what she ate for dinner that night.
Sure, it was college and we were young and immature. But can you honestly say you don't see (or participate in) the same behavior now? At your workplace? Or your gym? As an adult? I do. I'm not trying to exempt myself here. I have participated in this kind of girl on girl nastiness. But as I get older and as I focus so much of my time working with women to empower them, to help them see their own beauty and appreciate their own value, I can't ignore how detrimental this norm is.
The force that comes from women tearing one another down is dangerous. Likewise, the force that comes from women lifting one another up is limitless.
And the fact is, it doesn't have to take much. I was waiting for my barre method class to start the other morning; it's pretty standard that for about 10 minutes while we wait for the previous class to end, a few dozen women in workout clothes stand around, not really interacting with one another, likely silently sizing one another up. I noticed a girl with great, long legs wearing super cute leggings. So I told her "I love your leggings, they look awesome!" It sparked a conversation on a variety of topics beyond leggings and actually changed the dynamic of the room.
Have you ever done that? Given another woman -- a total stranger -- a genuine compliment? Have you noticed what happens? Her face lights up. I actually do this pretty frequently. It's partly just the extrovert in me but it's also my own attempt to let another woman know when I admire something about her. Imagine how you feel when another woman compliments you -- unprompted, totally authentic, not with any agenda in mind. It makes you stand a little taller.
As women, we are often pitted against one another in a competitive way. It becomes natural for us to feel envious of other women who have something we don't have, or look a way we wish we could look. Complimenting someone else is not enough to make you learn to love yourself, but it can help you take a negative feeling of envy and transform it into something more productive. By sharing your admiration with that other woman, you harness positive energy by lifting her up instead of putting yourself down. Chances are she is feeling equally self-conscious about herself in some way. You may actually find that it helps to make you feel just as good as it makes her feel.
I would like to leave you with a challenge. Do something to empower another woman today. Don't do it just for the sake of complimenting her... find something that you really admire about her and let her know. And then take inventory of how amazing you are and tell yourself something that you really admire about you.
I'd love to hear from you -- how did you uplift another woman? How did it make you feel?
Bio: After years of battling and recovering from her own eating disorders, Emily Light founded The Sustainable Body Project. A Certified Health Coach, Emily specializes in how to break free from a lifetime of chronic dieting to find peace around food in a body you love.