We’re at a unique period in modern history in which, globally, some women have more power, authority, and opportunity than ever.
Yet we still have so much work to do. For example:
- Women are still paid less than men for doing the exact same work, and Black women and Women of Color are paid even less than white women.
- What’s more, there are critical, often invisible reasons why women don’t even have the opportunity to do the same work as men, such as misogyny, racism, classism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, and other factors.
- Globally, women spend twice the amount of time men do completing unpaid domestic labor (e.g., cooking, cleaning, looking after children, caring for elderly parents, etc.)
Those stats are just the tip of the iceberg, and they are unacceptable.
That said, there is hope: you can make a real difference right now by choosing to lift women up, and each of us has the chance to do that, every day, in every area of our lives.
Other women are not your competition. When we buy into the belief that they are, we don’t just hurt one another, we hurt ourselves.
Principles of Lifting Women Up
Principle #1: Believe You Are Worthy of Your Own Care
Have you ever heard the phrase: “You can’t take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself first”?
we simply can’t do our best for others while neglecting our own selves. Many women are held back in their lives by body image struggles, comparison, jealousy, fear, and doubt. These things not only hinder us from achieving our full potential—they prevent us from helping other women do the same.
For this reason, the first step to becoming a strong woman who lifts other women up is to do good for yourself, and the next few chapters help you address and overcome your own struggles before diving in to helping other women.
Principle #2: Embrace Small and Simple
Small and simple can feel really weird at times. Especially if you’re used to making broad, sweeping changes or if you’ve been told that minor efforts aren’t enough to make a difference and you need to “go big or go home.”
Embrace this motto: small things add up. You’ll soon learn how small acts can turn into huge (sometimes unexpected) ripple effects that create more opportunities for women.
Principle #3: Get Curious
Our lived experiences are unique to us. However, we need to look beyond our own lived experiences and communities in order to achieve our fullest potential and lift women up in our lives. Curiosity can make just about anything more productive and positive, not to mention more fun!
Principle #4: Choose Your Own Adventure
This is a go-at-your-own-pace adventure.
You can progress at whatever pace suits you. The trick is to just keep going. No matter what: don’t let yourself get stuck.
Principle #5: Find Your Community
Want this journey to feel a little easier? Connecting with other like-minded people can help.
The expression, “If you want to go quickly—go alone. If you want to go far, go together”? One of the most powerful ways you can set yourself up for success before you start this journey is to surround yourself with a supportive community.
The Magic of the Ripple Effect
Think of the ripple effect like a candle. As James Keller said, “A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.” If we all take our candles and use them to light other women’s candles, together we can create a wildfire that blazes a new trail for future generations of women and girls.
Look at the above illustration. This is what happens when each woman decides to lift two other women up in her life and those women pay it forward.
If we’re going to overcome the odds that a systemic lack of opportunity stacks against us, we must work together.
Overcoming Comparison and Jealousy
Check the box if these resonate with you too
- I don’t want to slow down or take a break because other women might get ahead of me and snag the promotion/job/bonus/approval/etc.
- I don’t feel like I’m doing enough. I feel like I need to do more, give more, help more.
- I sometimes feel jealous when I see pictures of other women looking happy on social media or when good things happen in their lives.
- I feel like other women have it better than me—a nicer house, more travel, well-behaved kids, a better social life.
- I feel the need to explain myself or justify my actions because if I don’t, someone might criticize me, judge me, or blame me.
Welcome to The Comparison Trap. The Comparison Trap is emotional quicksand. It makes you feel like no matter what you have, it’s never enough. According to your perception, there’s always someone fitter, prettier, happier, or more successful.
Comparing ourselves to others is a natural impulse that’s part of the brain’s social-cognition network. Humans are social creatures who are adept at sizing one another up, seeing where we fit, and establishing hierarchy. And it’s not always a bad thing.
In fact, comparing can sometimes be useful, like when someone else’s achievements help you feel motivated or inspired. For example: if you see your friend run a marathon and think, You know, that’s something I want to do! You may feel a tinge of envy, sure, but you don’t feel ill will toward her. Instead, you ask her for advice on how to work toward your new goal.
Other examples include the following: If you’re in salary negotiations, knowing if you’re making above or below the median salary for someone in your position can give you leverage. If you’re applying for a competitive job, knowing what qualifications the other applicants have can give you insight into where you may need to level up your skills or experience. Or if you have a specific performance goal you want to achieve—e.g., place in your age group in an athletic competition—knowing what numbers you need to hit is critical to achieve your goal.
Four Techniques to Get Out of The Comparison Trap
These techniques take some practice. But the more you use them, the better they work
Technique #1: Notice and Name
The Comparison Trap is so pervasive that it’s automatic, and we don’t even realize we’re doing it. It’s insidious and will plague us until the day we die if we let it. The only way for it to stop is for us to make it stop.
Notice and name works exactly like it sounds: you notice when certain thoughts, words, or behaviors happen and label them for what they are. Awareness is the first crucial step toward change.
Technique #2: Think of Comparison as a Mirror, Not a Window
Meaning, when we compare ourselves to other people, it’s not actually about them. It’s typically a reflection of where we’re struggling with our own insecurities or desires. Framed this way, it can be easier to let go of jealous or resentful feelings and instead focus on moving toward the kind of life you want for yourself.
Technique #3: Learn to Separate Their “Highlight Reel” from Your “Behind the Scenes”
Maybe your friend is married to a gorgeous doctor, but she’s lonely in their beautiful home all by herself. Maybe your former college roommate has a fancy job and makes a ton of money, but she works eighty hours a week and desperately wants time to relax. Maybe your work colleague has abs of steel, but she engages in disordered eating habits and wishes she could let loose and enjoy herself with food once in a while.
This doesn’t mean that everyone who seems happy is secretly miserable. And it definitely doesn’t mean that women don’t deserve to be loving, and celebrating, every bit of their lives. The point is that we can’t know everything about another woman’s life from looking at her social media or chatting with her at a monthly book club meeting.
Technique #4: Run Comparison and Jealousy through Your “Values Filter”
You can use the values filter to find out whether you truly want what that other person has. If you do, you can shift away from jealousy and start working toward what you want. And if you don’t, this realization can soften the jealousy, provide some perspective, and allow you to move on.
What “Better Together” Is Not About
It’s important to be clear that doing better together doesn’t mean you have a responsibility to be friends with everyone, agree with everyone, like everyone, or be liked by everyone. As women, we often feel the need to be peacemakers, to be agreeable and not make waves. But you’re entitled to hold your own opinions, to be disliked, and to disagree with others.
You Don’t Have to Be Friends with Everyone
Be intentional about how you spend your precious time and energy—spend it on people who fill you up and actions that help you live your values.
You Don’t Have to Agree with Everyone
Robert Jones Jr. probably said it best: “We can disagree and still love each other unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist.”9
You Don’t Have to Be Liked by Everyone
Here’s another secret: you don’t have to like everyone either. Even so, you can still believe in their worth, want good things for them, want to see them succeed, and maybe even help them succeed in some capacity if that opportunity arises.
It’s Not About Winning
It’s a short-term, self-focused strategy where the objective is, well, to win. And that doesn’t always serve the greater good or honor the real difference we can make in the world. Doing better means listening to people’s perspectives, appreciating their lived experiences, and living according to my values. And it means recognizing that we are better together.
Taking Small, Daily Action
You might find that some of these small and simple tactics overlap. Or some might feel more doable or suitable for you. No worries. The point isn’t that you must do all of these things, all of the time, but rather to start practicing.
- Share Another Woman’s Work, Idea, or Creation
- Give Another Woman a Genuine Compliment
- Catch Another Woman Doing Something Right
- Give a Woman Credit Where Credit Is Due
- Be Intentional in Your Spending
- Endorse or Recommend Another Woman’s Work
- Speak Up When You Hear Something Negative Said About Another Woman
- Consider Calling Someone In (“Calling out” is like pointing your finger and yelling, “Hey, you really screwed up!” right in front of that person’s family and friends. “Calling in” is different. It’s a calmer interaction where you bring an issue to someone’s attention privately. It’s saying, “Hey, I want to let you know you did this thing, and I feel like you could have done it better and here’s why.”)
If there’s one big takeaway from this book, it’s that change has to come from the top-down, the bottom-up, the outside-in, and the inside-out. And we need all different kinds of efforts and involvement to make an impact, and no act is too small. Just like all the women before you, every single action you take is a vote in favor of who you want to be, and the kind of world you want to create.
So the question becomes: What kind of world do you want to see? Do you want to see a world where women—all women—are equitably represented and recognized in business and in government and in boardrooms and in all of the spaces and places where important decisions are made? Do you want to live in a world where women aren’t fighting one another for their rightful seat at the table, but are actively engaged in building bigger tables and inviting all of our sisters to sit with us?
If your answer is “Hell Yeah!”, you can make it happen.
We can make it happen, together. One strong woman at a time.