Jealous when you see another woman succeed? It’s not just you.
I participated in a workshop recently in which a woman I had just met and already admired shared a story about a time she saw a colleague step into her power and use her voice and instead of being happy for her, just felt angry and jealous.
She wanted to be happy for this person, she was genuinely glad she had gotten published or selected to speak at a conference (I forget the accomplishment), but she couldn’t access those feelings of joy. This confused and upset her. All she felt was anger at herself for not being able to do the same thing. If this woman can do this great thing, why haven’t I done it too? Why haven’t I already done it? was the feeling.
We could say this is one woman’s story and it has more to do with her own sense of self-worth than anything else. We could say people are competitive and jealousy is good because it motivates us to “keep up” with each other. But how do we know these things are true? Could it also be true that women, like other minorities who have historically been disenfranchised and excluded from so many important conversations and decisions, are systematically pitted against each other? That we unconsciously pit ourselves against each other very often now, even when we don’t have to?
We’ve been raised to believe we live in a world where power, like everything else, is a finite resource, something to be fought over and won. If you don’t like the word power, replace it with agency, voice, or ability to make change. Working within this reality, when another person succeeds, we feel let down because we suddenly think there is less power to go around. In a “power to” instead of “power over” world, a world where power is infinite, something we amplify each time we access it, we are much more likely to find joy in each other’s successes.
The trouble is, we’ve been raised in this old reality of “power over” and we’re just starting to build this new reality where power is expansive and unlimited. This means when we see each other succeed, we have to make a choice to support and celebrate each other. We should amplify each other’s “wins”, let them energize us, and practice making this mental switch, even when it’s hard because we’ve been trained to do otherwise.
Back to the workshop that got me thinking about this—when this woman shared this story, many other women in the room nodded, and this room was full of highly accomplished women who you would think would have no reason to be jealous of anyone. We all knew the feeling and were relieved to hear someone name it, we all nodded and laughed in agreement. I think we laughed because we were happy to see each other agree “there’s got to be another way.”
So who are the people and organizations out there working toward a gender-balanced and equitable world—or something else spectacular—that you want to get the word out about, amplify, and celebrate?
The Guardian in the UK has launched a community/online platform, “Women in Leadership,” to discuss the lack of women at the top and what we can all do to change it.
Forbes just convened a conference on May 9th aimed at redefining power and is launching a “Power Redefined” section on their website to keep this conversation moving forward.
Climbing PoeTree is a two-woman artistic duo (poetry, visual art, activism) who expand power in spades every time they give a show.
Rebecca Solnit, one our nation’s best journalists, is out there writing books like A Paradise Built in Hell about the resilience and wisdom to be found in communities that face natural disaster or violence. Rather than painting a picture of helpless, disempowered victims, Solnit gives new language to how these communities teach us what more is possible.