The last time I threw up my inevitable “woman guard” was over drinks and food. I found myself among a group of women I didn’t know, but who knew each other. What’s “woman guarding” exactly? Well, for me, it’s the way I monitor how I act in front of a group of women I’ve just met.
Don’t be too loud.
Tone down the charisma.
Don’t talk about myself or my job too much.
Don’t maneuver my eyes the wrong way. (We’ll get into that more later)
And so on.
This doesn’t come from a place of insecurity, but rather, experience. It especially rings true when I really want a group of women to like me (Which I did in this case).
But then the slings and arrows came my way. One worded answers. Glares across the table. Talks about high school memories -- the kind of conversations you can’t contribute to unless you were there.
If this reads like the classic situation of “Let’s bring this girl down subtlety, and in ways that the men around us would never catch onto,” then we’re on the same page. It’s an unfortunate chapter I am sure thousands of women of all ages, know all too well.
It’s why I have a message for my fellow women.
There was a point in time when I made a decision, and something switched in my brain. I decided that life among women isn't a competition. Then, slowly, any sense of jealousy I felt toward other women transformed into a feeling of admiration.
I can’t tell you why this happened or how this happened but it happened, and it’s changed my life. I have a great wish, and it is for all women to experience some form of this.
When jealousy manifests itself as admiration, your whole world changes. What started as seeing a woman rock a dress you thought you couldn’t pull off, just became inspiration for tomorrow: show off your personality by wearing whatever you feel.
Seeing a woman crack a joke and make a group of people laugh fills me with joy.
Watching a woman climb up to the top of her career because she worked hard and was nice to people is good karma at its best.
The relationships and interactions between women compared to men have always fascinated me. From playing dinosaurs and digging for rocks in kindergarten to a boys’ night in listening to music, I’ve always felt more in my element surrounded by men. I can’t explain why, but it’s rare that I meet a new group of women and feel completely comfortable being myself.
This isn’t to say that I don’t know plenty of strong and incredible women who make me feel great. I consider myself lucky to be surrounded by many, many amazing women who have shaped my life. But I believe women still have a way to go when it comes to making each other feel included.
How silly is it that there are still imaginary barriers between women that many men will probably never understand. And women, you know what I think we should all collectively say to these barriers? Barriers we’ve built of bricks made of our own insecurities thrust upon us by society?
Imagine if we all took the jealousy and comparing we did to each other and turned it into admiration? These results would be powerful. It would be an endless cycle of women aspiring to be better versions of themselves.
Women have been marginalized since the beginning of time. Slowly we are gaining the power we deserve but still face very real issues every day. Issues like being judged for our emotions, sexualized in work settings, fighting for equal wages, the list goes on. We have enough to deal with and plenty more to fight for.
Imagine the reprieve if we fought these battles hand-in-hand. We are all human and we won’t be perfect all the time. There will be days we have to allow ourselves to feel jealous. But we don’t have to it let it define us and we don’t have to let it hurt others.
So to the women who will love the men I have also loved, thank you for the wonderful lessons you will teach them. How magical that we were both drawn to the incredible qualities of the same soul. We too, are connected.
To the women I look up and down at as we pass each other on the street -- that wasn’t a dirty look. If my gaze went all the way down to your toes it’s because you moved with grace. It’s because I want to take your impeccable style and re-imagine it as my own. You radiate beauty.
And to the women I will be up against in interviews; I’m happy to see you here too.
You know what phrase I would never like to hear leave anyone’s mouth again?
"Women are so catty.”
Women aren’t catty. Women are human. And humans are insecure. But these women are capable of loving. Loving themselves first, and then spreading that love around to others. And that love could change the world. So take my hand, women. Let’s do this together.