She sat across from me on the floor, on a multi-colored pillow. We were in a room full of women who were there for one reason: to replenish one another.
This may seem odd or unfamiliar. It was to me at first. I had grown accustomed to petty competition that seeps into the pores of women, holding us back, keeping us on edge. What started in elementary school as girl-on-girl crime developed, blossomed, and bloomed into women throw-down tear-downs in the adult world. How did this happen?
Gossip. Betrayal. Envy. Language.
In our world, women compete for partners, jobs, best in motherhood, in sexiness, in meal preparation, in parties, in got-it-all-togetherness. Within this competition you’ll find eye-rolling, cutting other women down with words, whispers, divulging information that isn’t ours to share, shaming other women for their choices, and protesting with our emotions, absence, or silence.
But, on this day surrounded by women, this particular woman said she was committing to supporting other women. What did this mean for her, I wondered?
“I’m going to say yes to other women and get behind whatever they’re trying to do,” she said.
This idea seemed incredibly courageous in its simplicity: just say yes and just show up.
What does this look like in our everyday life and attitudes?
1. Start with encouragement.
As women, we tend to play it safe or make sure all of our ducks are in a row. We want to assess the situation for security and control. We oftentimes are risk-averse. But when it comes to living brave and bold, we need to support other women in their brave and bold decisions. You want to buy a bikini for summer? Yes! I will go with you to make sure self-defeating thoughts don’t creep in. You want to start a business? Yes! Let’s go! How can I support? You want to throw an event, host a workshop, buy the puppy, attend counseling, travel to a foreign land, try online dating? Yes! I’ll buy a ticket, a dog bowl, and answer your cell phone calls when you have stories of hilarity or anxiety.
2. Stay accountable for her and for yourself.
When you’re showing support to someone, helping them stay accountable to their goals is important for them and for you. It keeps them on track and it keeps you in encouragement, even when it may be easy to slip into a little jealousy. What you’ll find is that support feels good. Uplifting a girlfriend brings feelings of uplift for you as well. It always feels wonderful to be encouraged and it feels wonderful to encourage others. The shift of perspective is a tool of momentum producing courage in both women.
3. Observe your language.
The way we encourage women and how we say it matters. As women, we have been minimizing each other without even knowing it. The language we’ve been handed makes us seem dainty and quaint and pretty and lovely and quiet and demure. If you Google “descriptors for men,” you discover the following list: strong, tall, big, handsome, tough, robust, hero, powerful, aggressive, hard-working, athletic, dependable, sculpted. A similar Google search for women produces the following list: accepting, adorable, affectionate, agreeable, angelic, attentive, attractive, gorgeous, fragile, forgiving, provocative, ravishing, reserved, sacrificing. When you’re encouraging a fellow female, try to use language that sounds and feels powerful. Instead of “You’re so amazing,” exchange it for, “You’re powerful, strong, goal-oriented, focused, driven, and your idea will shake the ground you set it on.”
4. Ask her powerful, positive questions.
Women are such ingenious innovators. Many times, the ideas they come up with on their own are more effective than anything someone tells them. As her friend, encourage her own thoughts to grow. Create action plans with her by asking her prompting questions instead of telling her what you would do. Questions like: “Why is this important to you?” or, “What matters the most in this situation?” or, “Who do you need to become to achieve this?” or, “What do you need to lose in order to achieve this?” And let her navigate what matters to her in this space, instead of hearing what matters to you first.
5. Be present. Show up. Be proud.
Celebrate her effort and her work. Encouragement nuggets are the best way to keep going, and celebrations can be as simple as a quick text, e-mail, hug, or glass of wine.
As women, we are in this together and it’s time we start lifting each other up instead of silently holding each other back. We want our fellow females to be loved, supported, encouraged, empowered, educated, successful, and fearless. We want them to achieve their goals and spread their wings. We want them to make big decisions and roll with them. We want to see women thriving, and to do that, we have to play an active role in the lives of our fellow females.
Since that day, I have remembered my friend’s words: “I’m going to say yes to other women and get behind whatever they’re trying to do.” This simple rule for living has brightened my life in countless ways, and I carry it with me every day.
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