Your coworker gets a promotion, and she hasn’t been working there as long as you have. Your entrepreneurial friend launches a thriving business. Your sister has found the secret to being a working mom without compromising time with her adorable family. And your friend is wearing an extra cute outfit today. And instead of being happy for them, you feel jealous.
We’ve all had this moment; the moment where you know you should be happy for her success but really you’re just feeling resentful and wishing you had that. “Why does she get the promotion/success/looks?” we ask yourselves. We know we should celebrate the accomplishments of other women in our lives, but why is it so hard to do it? Why is it easier to tear each other down rather than build each other up? As a psychotherapist, I have gained some insight into some of the myths that may obstruct our positive thinking.
Myth #1: It’s a Competition
When another woman is successful, we sometimes fall into the trap of believing the myth that it’s a competition between women—a race for success—and when one woman “wins,” the rest of us lose.
I was just talking about this with a friend recently. “It’s so hard for me,” she explained, “not to resent other women who are doing work similar to mine but who seem to do it so effortlessly while I feel like I’m struggling just to keep my head above water.” She shared how she would see women on social media document the exciting things happening to them. But instead of being happy for them and supportive of their success, she would feel a sense of competition and resentment toward them. She felt like she lost the contest and that she somehow had to become better at her job than they were.
Of course, this isn’t true, but often it’s easy to forget that and that sense of competition kicks in. We feel outshone and discounted when we feel as if we lost the race.
The best way to combat this myth is to remember that we are all on the same team. Supporting and encouraging each other is much more important than tearing each other down. After all, it’s already challenging enough to succeed as women in certain fields. Why make it harder for each other.
The next time you hear about a fellow woman’s success and feel that twinge of jealousy, catch yourself, remind yourself that it’s not a competition, and wish her further success. When we celebrate each other’s successes, we reinforce that we are a team and support network for each other. It’s a team sport, not an individual one.
Myth #2: It Means You Aren’t Good Enough
Another common trap that we can fall into is believing that another woman’s success is a negative evaluation of us and our lack of success. For example, if your friend just landed her dream job, you are probably happy for her, but you might also experience a nagging feeling that you could never be as successful as she isbecause you feel like you are lacking in some way. You may feel inadequate. “I could never be as great as she is,” you tell yourself, “I’m not smart/motivated/clever enough to succeed.”
Of course, this belief isn’t true. Another woman’s success does not mean that you somehow don’t measure up. The phrase, “comparison is the thief of joy,” is helpful to remember in situations like these. When you compare yourself to others and let their successes become indicators of where you don’t measure up, your self-confidence and contentment drop sharply. But it doesn’t need to. It isn’t helpful to let the lives of others serve as the yardstick for defining our worth. It will only leave us feeling inadequate because there will always be someone who is smarter, funnier, prettier, and stronger than us.
Instead, remember that you are enough, just as you are. It’s not a competition and your friend’s success doesn’t mean you are the less talented friend. Remind yourself that the good things that happen to her in no way mean that you are not good enough.
Myth #3: Success Is the Same for All of Us
Another myth we can frequently fall for is that the terms of success are the same for every person. In other words, being successful means having a thriving business, an Instagram-picture-perfect family, and cute clothes (or some version of this). But that’s a fairly narrow definition of success. Success looks very different from person to person. We all have unique stories, specific struggles, and different things that make us happy. Telling yourself that you will be happy once you have the thriving home business, and so on, will only fuel feelings of inadequacy. Instead, decide for yourself what it means to be successful in your own life and pursue that. Don’t let someone else’s story dictate yours.
When you break down these myths, it’s so much easier to feel more secure in your own life and not feel threatened by others’ successes in life. When you don’t let these myths get in the way, you can be freely happy for the good things that happen to the other ladies in your life and for the good things that happen in your own.