Over two years ago I posted Stop Competing, Start Caring which focused on the rampant issue of women putting each other down through mean-spirited acts of unspoken competition. From the gym to work environments I see women continuing to combat jealousy via negativity and attempts to feel superior. Sadly, I suspect if my gender was more supportive of each other on the whole, if we’d have a woman as president today instead of the misogynist we’re stuck with. But I digress…
I recently joined a new gym, the kind of gym where everyone is very fit and focused on hard core workouts. This is no meat-market pick up joint, or Planet Fitness where you cannot grunt or show too much skin. Despite being a fitness professional I found clientele on the workout floor a bit intimidating, so I decided the best counter-action was to smile sincerely at everyone, especially the women. Not surprisingly, but too my renewed dismay, only one out of every ten women smiled back. Even with deliberate eye contact and my broad and welcoming smile, they looked away with down-turned mouths. I even attempted to strike up a conversation with one woman in-between sets and she answered me quite curtly and sauntered off.
So here is the post again, with slight updates, in my hopes to remind all women that we do not need to compete or be jealous of each other. The grass is NEVER greener on the other side, and only if we work together can we continue the improvements to our role in society that the Suffragettes’s started and the 60’s feminist movement continued.
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Since I was a young girl I’ve been aware of the serious nature of girls competing against each other for just about everything from friends to grades to boys. It gets worse and uglier as we grow into women. I see it at the gym, the mall, restaurants – women sizing up the competition. You can see it in their expressions, a defensive once-over seeking some flaw or registering uncalled-for disapproval.
I’ve mentioned this before, living in Las Vegas I regularly see parades of girls, each more scantily clad than the next, perched in ridiculously high heels, all glaring at the gaggle next to theirs to see if there is anyone they can put down to make themselves feel better. Belittle the competition and they’re no longer a threat, right? Yet despite girls’ intentions, the message men take away from this contest of looks is that we’re offering your bodies and not our brains, and thus they don’t really care which girl they get.
The question is why are we so quick to condemn or ridicule? The answer is competition. We compete to be prettier, smarter, slimmer, or funnier. But the true concern really comes down our fear that someone is “better than me.” Girls are constantly worried that another girl will get more attention, steal a mate, or even get a better mate. We regularly match our own worth against the next girl – which only serves to chronically undermine one’s self-esteem – and we usually know nothing about this other girl’s character and/or life other than her “cover” which we judge.
It’s sad that we are driven to such levels of insecurity that we view our fellow “sisters” as potential threats to our happiness. I suspect this is also a part of the reason that women are still undervalued and underpaid in the workforce. It’s bad enough that we have to compete with men for jobs, but when women consistently treat each other with distrust and resentment in a work environment, it’s easy for employers to offer us less money knowing that we’ll accept it just to get ahead of the next woman.
I know in my youth I did my share of mocking another or feeling envious of another girl’s achievements or looks, but I’ve worked hard in this second half of my adult life to remind myself that the grass is rarely greener on the other side, and that we all have strengths and weaknesses, gifts and limitations, and the only person I should compete with is myself – to constantly grow and improve.
So I suggest that all women take stock of their attributes and stop beating yourselves up about your detriments. If there’s a negative aspect of yourself that you can actually change, DO IT and move on. Otherwise, be proud of who you are what you’ve achieved and never stop trying to be more. Consider the woman next to you your equal and always be there for each other.
If we can teach our daughters through this example, we just might have a generation of women that work together to boost each other up, improve the world at large, and show men that we are not only equal, but in some areas might even be superior? Just food for thought.
In light of receiving many encouraging responses to last week’s post (No More Labels), I contemplated further why we feel the strong need to label everyone with an adjective indicating physical approval or rejection based upon our exteriors. It hit me that this is because a huge portion of our society is shallow – shallow in their views of bodies, shallow in their treatment of women, shallow in our obsessions with ourselves and our need to conform. Keep in mind, I’m not calling people shallow per se (a disparaging usage), I’m saying our choices and/or view points can be shallow as the dictionary defines the word: of little depth.
Now I’m not pointing an accusatory finger around blindly without looking within – I spent the week analyzing how and when I make choices based upon my insecurities or “shallowness.” I concluded that society (myself included) is often so busy and focused on the trivialities of day-to-day life that we are living only on the surface, which in itself equates to a shallow life (for the surface has little depth). It doesn’t help that somehow we just elected the shallowest of shallow men as President (I’m allowed my opinion) which seems to further prove my point that a vast amount of society doesn’t care to look below the surface.
So what do we do about it? Well just the suggestion that we look deeper at how we view and treat each other, as well as how we view ourselves, will cause us to make less shallow choices. Once you become aware that you’re prone to judging a book by its cover, it’s harder to maintain that habit.
I put myself to the test this past week and did my best to view others with less pre-conceived notions about who they are based upon their outsides or a limited glimpse of behavior. I especially applied this new perspective to myself. Anytime I hesitated to do something or try something because I worried about how that would seem to others (those who might judge me only by my surface), I forged forward with the encouraging reminder that if if you dive deeper (or live life less shallow), you find unexpected treasures.
My conclusion is that I will ever-more look below the surface so I can better understand and appreciate the diversity of those around me, have a fuller life, and encourage everyone else to do the same. That way we can hopefully rid society of the labels and judgments that bind (or rather blind) us.
How much time do you spend in a day thinking or worrying about what other people may think of you? Take your time, really think about this. I know that most of us spend a great deal of time concerned with how our actions or words will affect (or have affected) our family, friends, co-workers, and yes, even strangers. This appears to be a built-in commonality to most humans – it is in our “human nature” to need each other. We all instinctively desire families and friends, and as we evolved as a civilization, that instinct created a side-affect of caring about how others view us.
Recently I’ve been analyzing this trait we share, with the realization that while caring about approval is important, we waste a lot of time caring about the wrong issues or people. There are, of course, millions of individuals who seem to not care what other’s think, demonstrated either by their clear disregard for anyone’s wishes other than their own, or their overly-vehement verbal claims that they just don’t care what anyone thinks (Mr. Trump?). But even for these types, I know with certainty that in some aspect, in certain circumstances, or at the very least with a select few people in their lives, these non-care-ers do in fact care very much. They’ve just adopted the habit of shrugging their shoulders and letting go of the emotional turmoil that can come with caring. Sometimes we envy those who seem to not care because it appears freeing and less stressful. But remember once you force human nature to not care, you loose a lot of joy in life that comes from caring.
Now caring should not be confused with compassion, sympathy and empathy — which we all should strive to have more of. But caring to the point that we berate ourselves for our choices, or feel embarrassment or guilt about our actions, is the issue I’m addressing today.
How many times have you stopped yourself from doing something because you worried about how you might look or sound. What experiences have you missed out on because of this? The sad thing is that 90% of the time no one would have judged you poorly or possibly even noticed. The remaining 10% of the time, or rather the remaining 10% of people who might have a negative opinion, they’re either strangers that you will NEVER see again, or they are friends/family who better have unconditional love for you or they’re not worth being in your lives (in my opinion)!
Children do not start out with these concerns, they do and say what they want and live life to the fullest learning along the way how far they can go on pure instinct and the desire to find joy and fun in everything. It is only in the structured social and behavioral environment of school that they start to care – or more precisely start to temper their choices based upon their concern that other’s might judge them negatively. While sometimes this is a good lesson (i.e., not to put their bodies in harms way, not to speak out of turn, not to say hurtful things, etc.) it also crushes our inherent instincts to step out on a ledge and try something new.
While I’m not offering a solution to this dilemma today, I simply want to bring it to your consciousness and offer the reminder that some aspects of childlike abandon could do your life some good. Adulthood doesn’t mean we should stop learning or seeking to push ourselves and our minds and constantly seek new experiences. We have the benefit of adult wisdom when it comes to protecting our bodies and minds, but perhaps we should incorporate back in some of the innocence and bravery of youth. So stop worrying so much about what other’s think and just worry about if you’re doing right by YOU!
My patience as a parent is continually tested by my 10-year old’s need to be right. I engage far too often in a test of wills as we battle for who is right. I know in the back of my mind that right isn’t necessarily what’s important. Being honest, being compassionate, being reliable – those are traits to strive for. Being right, well that’s really about the ego.
Obviously we all love being right when it comes to matters of fact or real life importance, but most of us lock horns when we are obsessed with being right on matters of the heart – things we feel passionately about. But our egos truly get in the way when they push us to stop listening or seek a compromise because only being right will do. This is most evident with the current HUGE ego standoff between republicans and democrats.
Trump is nothing but an egomaniac who is driven 24/7 with being right even when he is clearly wrong (even when just the day before he said he was right with a completely opposite stance). Many people believe to their bones that they are right about Hillary, that she’s a duplicitous power hungry bitch who cannot be trusted when she smiles and says she’s right. Because of our need to be right, we have all been subjected to over 12 months of rhetoric and mud slinging just to be on the side that gets to say they’re right (the winners).
What’s wrong with all this is that 99% of the time being right doesn’t make a bit of difference. Clearly the majority of American’s thought they were right to elect Obama. The Republican controlled House and Senate however, thought they were right to deem every one of his acts or proposals as wrong. The end result is that almost nothing has improved in the last four years, and whether Trump or Clinton wins, the next four years are likely to be just as stagnant as the last. Sadly, being the right person for the Presidency this year won’t change what’s wrong.
Forget about politics, how about the entertainment industry? Kanye West is so certain that everything he does is right, he had no compunction interrupting Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech a few years back to inform the whole world that Beyonce was the right winner. His wife Kim Kardashian believes she was wrongfully attacked because she posted a nude photo of herself as a “mother with nothing to wear.” Who’s right, the outraged women of the world, or the self-obsessed media whore who was exercising her right to free speech?
What I’m trying to teach my child is the difference between “beneficial rightness” and “detrimental rightness.” When we correct a friend, spouse or parent as they’re telling a story and their facts are little out of order, does interrupting and/or correcting them serve any purpose? Does it make the story better? Does it make them feel better or you?
Conversely, when you correct someone (like your kids) on something like the spelling of a word, or a math equation, that benefits them. When you correct their behavior or their nutrition, that benefits them. When a candidate denies lying about their past, if there are validated facts that prove them wrong, we as a people should learn what’s right (i.e., true) — that benefits us.
So who IS right, or when is it right to be right? Who cares! Ultimately being right doesn’t get the job done – real listening and compromise is what’s needed in this world.
When I was growing there were two principles that my mother instilled in me. One was that all adults were to be addressed by a title – either Mr Blank and Miss So and So, or Aunt X and Uncle Y (if related, or a very close family friend). She told me that adults were not my peers and deserved the respect of a title and not just a first name. The second principle was a strong work ethic that was based on the simple rule that work/chores were to be done first and completed prior to playing. What I see currently with many kids and young adults is a lack of both of these ideals, resulting in a ruder and less accomplished society.
Now while my soapbox preaching today may seem righteous and judgmental this is not my intent. I am actually sharing these opinions because, as demonstrated by the horrifying societal appeal of idiot-savant Donald Trump, we clearly need to raise our current and future generations to be less self-focused and self-entitled (mob mentality) and more diligent, polite, and village-supportive.
To do this we must start with the kids. I am NOT raising my child without these ideals firmly in place. I’ve had to instruct many of my child’s friends and cousins that I am not Ariana, but Ms. Ariana, or Aunt Ariana. I insist that she address all her friend’s parents by Mr. or Miss (and their name), and all Aunts and Uncles are to be titled thusly. She routinely grumbles when I hand her a stack of thank you cards each year after her birthday, but do them she must!
I’ve also had to deal with my child saying her friends “play first and do homework when they feel like it,” so she wants to do her homework after dinner, etc. Despite the fact that she is a very good student, I continue to insist that homework and chores are completed prior to playing or socializing. I want this work ethic firmly instilled by the time she’s in high school when the demands are higher and routines get fully ingrained.
Even removing the “societal improvement” argument, I feel this is important because the key to achieving your life goals in a timely fashion is through discipline and personal networking. Remembering someone’s name when you meet them; referring to them with a respectful title; following up meetings with a thank you note; or completing a task or request in a timely fashion are all ways to up your value as you climb the career or education ladder.
So when I hear people unhappy with their lives (or “life in America”), yet they do nothing to improve their own situations or teach their children to work hard for that obligatory “more” – I say look at your work ethic. Then stand up, treat those around you with respect, conduct yourself with respect and reliability, and with a little elbow-grease (hard work) and you’ll find things can and will improve.