“There is a special place in Hell for women who don’t help other women.”
–Madeleine K. Albright, Former Secretary of State
We’ve all crossed paths with them somewhere on our journey. They are known as the “queen bees,” Regina George’s, mean girls of the world. Whether we were in 7th grade, our freshman year of college, or even in our workplace–each one of us bears our own share of scars from times when we have found ourselves pushed out of our circle of friends, humiliated in front of that “one guy,” or been the subject of a nasty rumor that went through the whole school before we found out. We all have at least one story–and that is if we are lucky!
But what about the times that we are the “mean girls?”
The times we walk into a new group of people and size up the other women in the room–deciding who will be our friends, who will be our competition, and who we don’t want to be seen with. The times we see a woman in the mall and think “what was she thinking when she put that on, this morning?” The times we gossip with our friends about another woman because it temporarily makes us feel better about ourselves. The times a woman we know succeeds in something, and we just can’t be happy for her. Or, when we let jealously separate us from someone who might have been a good friend.
Recently, a friend of mine was in a salon getting her hair done, and when the girl in the chair behind her was finished, she got out of the chair and started playing with her hair in the mirror. She then grabbed her purse, and as she was walking out, stopped again to look in another mirror, saying to herself, loud enough for everyone to hear, “I’m so cute.” All the other women in the room watched, speechless. The girl paid for her hairdo, and then looked at herself in another mirror, one last time before going out the door.
My friend admitted to me something that I have been guilty of too: In that moment, her first thought about this girl was “how vain is she?” Then she caught herself. She explained to me “ We are so used to women complaining about their looks that when we hear someone be happy with the way they look, we accuse them of being shallow and vain!”
For some reason–perhaps it is how we have been conditioned, or its our own insecurities–our first default response as women is often to judge one another. As my friend shared, not only do we struggle to celebrate ourselves, we struggle to celebrate each other. We struggle to celebrate with women who are able to do things we can’t. We struggle to offer grace to women who don’t measure up to the impossible standards that we, ourselves are struggling to reach. And whether we are just “silently judging” or blatantly judging, I am afraid we are doing more damage than we realize–not just to others, but to ourselves as well.
By placing walls of judgement between us, we are missing out on opportunities to build up other women and to learn from them too. When my friend realized her attitude toward this girl was faulty, she told me that her thoughts began to change to “wow it must be really nice to see yourself that way. Good for her! I wish I could know that feeling too!” Perhaps if we were able to be kinder to each other as women, we’d also learn how to be kinder to ourselves.
What would it take for us to reprogram our hearts and minds so that our default towards other women is no longer judgement?
What would it look like for us to offer grace to or even celebrate with the women who are outside our inner circle of friends?