Are You a Woman Who Supports Other Women?
Whenever people ask me how I got started as a writer, I always credit a woman named Farn Dupre. I had written a personal essay that was rejected by almost a dozen publications before it landed on Ms. Dupre’s desk. I was getting discouraged and starting to have doubts about my writing abilities. Not only did she print the essay, but Ms. Dupre offered me an opportunity to write for her magazine even though at that time I had minimal experience. If she hadn’t taken a chance on me, I might have given up on my dream of ever becoming a professional writer.
In the years since I met Ms. Dupre, I have been fortunate to encounter many other women who have supported and mentored me in my career. But sadly, there have been a few who were not quite as generous — ones who had the opportunity to be helpful or encouraging but chose a different path.
Why are some women not as supportive of other women as they could be? Cognitive neuroscientist Caroline Leaf says that sometimes the reason can be a sense of jealousy about what other women have managed to achieve. They may fear that if they help another woman to succeed, that woman will wind up surpassing them. Leaf says, “This insecurity perhaps stems from low self-confidence, which often puts someone on the defensive. This is perhaps symptomatic of a larger societal problem where women are made to feel insecure.”
We have all heard the term “mean girls” used to describe negative interactions by some teenage females toward each other. We hope that as women mature and become more confident, they would grow out of this type of unkind behavior. Unfortunately, gossiping, betrayal and bullying between woman can continue into adulthood as women compete against each other in dating, school, the workplace and even in motherhood.
The belief that one would need to pull someone down to rise up is flawed. The “Shine Theory” implores women to ask themselves, “Would we be better as collaborators than as competitors?” The answer is almost always “yes.”
Leaf says, “There is definitely a move towards more women supporting each other, as is so evident on social media and with books like Lean In. Since #MeToo movement I have noticed a distinct change in how women interact. There is much more openness, sincerity and willingness to believe, fight for and help other women.”
When women work together, everyone benefits. Leaf says, “As women, it is important that we pass down our collective wisdom, whether this is to do with our career, motherhood, relationships, etc. I also believe that there is strength in numbers; each of us can do something that someone else can’t do, so we really are better together.”
Not only will we be more successful if we join forces as women, but we also will be happier. As Leaf explains, “Social support is also incredibly important for our mental health. One of the biggest predictors of mental ill-health is the lack of a good social support system, so it really is so important that we are there for one another.”
Want to be supportive of other women and not sure how? Leaf suggests we work on bridging the gap between women of different ages, races, orientations, abilities, classes and belief systems by creating cross-cultural communication. She says, “I strongly believe that we can only solve problems through open and honest communication, not gossip. I also think it is important for older women to mentor younger women and vice versa — we can all learn from each other.” Be there for all the women in your life, from coworkers to friends and family. As The Shine Theory advises, “Cultivate a spirit of genuine happiness and excitement when your friends are doing well, and being there for them when they aren’t.”
There is nothing that makes me feel more successful in my career than when another woman (or man) asks me for advice or suggestions on how they can grow their readership or break into writing professionally. I hope one day that someone feels the same gratitude toward me as I do toward Farn Dupre.
This piece is reposted from The Girlfriend From AARP. The Girlfriend is AARP’s digital newsletter for women over 40 and a gathering place. Women over 40 know things. We’ve been there, drank that. Our kids are old enough to ignore at the pool or are off to college. Our health is a priority, our parents’ health is a concern—and we finally have the time to find out who we are and what we want to do (which is most anything set to ’80s music!). But still, we’re an underserved audience. “AARP founded The Girlfriend two years ago to focus on Gen-X women,” says editor Shelley Emling. “In our free weekly digital newsletter we share real stories and key info about our changing health needs, evolving relationships, work and financial goals, and the latest, hottest trends. Just like a Girlfriend, we talk about everything.” Visit us at TheGirlfriend.com to laugh, learn — and find out about freebies!
This essay was featured in the July 7th edition of The Sunday Paper. The Sunday Paper inspires hearts and minds to rise above the noise. To get The Sunday Paper delivered to your inbox each Sunday morning for free, click here to subscribe.