As a woman and as a young girl I’ve lived my life two different ways. First, I’ve lived a good portion of my life as a mean girl. I mean I was a full blown mean girl from out of the movies. A powerful one. I gave it 100% and I was good at it! I was willing to say whatever came to my mind not caring or thinking about the way it affected the other girls. I thought it was cute to have a bad attitude; it was cute to give other girls who I caught looking at me a dirty look. It was acceptable to pick and choose which girls could be my friends and which wouldn’t make the cut. I had mastered ways of belittling other girls with words and looks. I knew exactly what I was doing because it was intentional.
I specifically remember an example of a time in my youth in which a young lady was trying desperately to be my friend. I bullied her. I talked down to her. I mocked the idea of us ever hanging out. I thought more highly of myself than her. And needless to say, I never befriended her. I never even gave her the time of day. Eventually she left me alone. And we both moved on. We both grew up.
One day I saw her in the grocery store, both grown women, both married and both buying groceries at the same store. We locked eyes; I wondered if she remembered me. I wondered what she remembered about me. She quickly flashed a smile and said, “Hi Stephanie”. Wow. Overcome with embarrassment I said hello back. I gave her my warmest smile and softest words in hopes that would be enough to silence the memories that were most likely flooding her and reminding her of my cruelty. I asked about her life. We chatted for a few moments about the world, our husbands, and the miscellaneous ingredients in our baskets.
After briefly catching up, we both agreed that it was nice to see each other and we said our goodbyes. As I walked away smiling and going about my business, it dawned on me. She never even mentioned all the mean things I said and did to her. She didn’t avoid eye contact and try to dodge me (like I might have if I were in her shoes). She didn’t give me a dirty look or remind me of the past. She was kind. She was genuinely excited to see me.
I felt regret. I felt ashamed. Why didn’t I bring it up? Why didn’t I apologize? I wished I could have mustered up the courage to go back up to her and say sorry. But I think our conversation let her know that I was different, that I accepted her. In that moment, we were old friends. Although the reality was that I knew that I was no friend to her; but she was a friend to me.
In that moment, I realized just how important of a role we all have as women or young girls in each other’s lives. We can make or break another’s’ self-esteem. We hold the power to be a determining factor in someone else’s development, growth and success. That is true power. The bond between two women can be strong enough to pull each other out of any rut that we might get ourselves into. This bond can literally keep us alive through a bitter divorce, make us feel beautiful, entertain us in our moments of boredom, encourage us to reach higher than we thought we could; these bonds can last a lifetime.
I believe that as we get older and become young women and not little girls, it becomes more about a competition. I’m not talking about our older wiser women who of course would never get caught up in such pettiness. But I am talking about our young ladies between the ages of 13-25. It’s an unspoken competition. Who is prettier, who is skinnier, who has the best clothes and shoes, who has the best job, car, man, or just overall life? It actually, from one angle, is humorous. It becomes humorous because we all exercise the same exact behaviors. We all feel the same exact ways. We all want the same things.
Yet, don’t let a group of young girls get all dressed up and go out together. When we are out with a group of girls (our approved friends of course) and another group of girls walks in, let the judging begin. Nothing has to be said, nothing has to be prepared in advance. In fact, some of the judges may not even realize they’ve entered a battleground. It is so deeply rooted in us that I bet most of you are already giggling to yourself because you are guilty. “OMG look at her shoes”. “Why is she anorexic and wearing those pants?” “Who told her that her eyebrows looked good like that?” And it goes on and on and on. And I will only briefly mention the cackling and loud purposeful laughing that we do amongst ourselves, sometimes to let the other group know we are talking about them, and other times just because we really think our insults are funny. It isn’t until we get older and wiser that we grow out of this. And if we are honest, some of us never do. Put us with the right girlfriend and this side of us can quickly come back to surface even in our maturity.
After much self-reflection combined with growth and maturity, I have made it one of my top priorities in life to promote the bond of sisterhood. We are only making life harder on each other. Until we realize that we are each other, we will continue to embed this mentality into our daughters, our friends, and ourselves.
Over the last ten years, I’ve lived life as a powerful woman: cloaked in sisterhood, love, and encouragement. Once I recognized the power in sisterhood, I became addicted to it. I fell in love with knowing that I could actually make a difference in the world. I truly believe that if every woman gave her absolute best at retraining herself to think of every woman as her sister, we can eliminate this competitive nonsense that brings pain and stunts our growth as women. We can raise a powerful generation of daughters who will confidently know how maximize their potential without putting someone else down in the process. Our daughters will be able to focus more on their goals or their families instead of comparing themselves to everything they are trying to keep up with. Our daughters would be able to simply enjoy the friendship, warmth and strength from the other women they meet.
Sisterhood is not just for young women. It is for women of all ages: our little girls, our teens, our young adults, and our senior citizens. The next time you see a little girl being mean, check her. Teach her about the effects of her words. Encourage her to break the cycle and give her practical ways to do it. The next time you hear a young adult woman gossiping about the next woman, take a stand. Say something to her. And the next time you see a little old lady, look past her wrinkles and try to see her as yourself. Tell her she is beautiful. Tell her you appreciate her life. Pick her brain for her wisdom and experience. God made all women beautiful. We need to remember that when we talk about another woman’s appearance, we are mocking God’s creation, one of His masterpieces.
Proverbs 31:30 says Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised. Now go and be a praiseworthy woman.