Saturday, January 7, 2017

"Yo soy Mermaid"

Have you always wanted to be a mermaid? You might want to think again.

This past weekend my husband and I watched 'Confirmed Kills' a comedy special by Iliza Shlesinger. (We just got Netflix yay!) Iliza reminded me of a less cynical and sharper type of Amy Schumer. I'm not necessarily a big fan of Amy Schumer, but I'm always intrigued by successful females who try to inspire and empower other women so decided to give it a go. What I loved about Iliza's special was that not only is she quick, razor sharp and funny, her dialogue is very empowering. Which you know I'm all about. There's a part in her special where she hates on mermaids. Mermaids and everything they stand for. Not being able to take a stand (literally, I mean come on they don't have feet), holding up the image of the perfect willing victim for any sailor (scarcely clad, perfect hair) and last but not least, hoarding! "Look at this stuff, isn't it neat? Wouldn't you think my collections complete?" Well guess again! 

If you'd like to see a quick trailer for Confirmed Kills, it's on YouTube. You can find the entire special on Netflix. At the bottom of this article I'll also include a link to the whole special on YouTube. 

All kidding aside though, the point to Iliza's "yo soy mermaid" rant is a very valid one that should be talked about. Especially amongst women. 

About 40 minutes into her special Iliza broaches the subject of commanding respect, not demanding, commanding. Commanding respect is in our actions. According to her it has to do with the way we women talk about ourselves and about how we talk to and about each other. Empowerment comes from that. She points out that we need to stop talking negatively about other women. Because what society takes away from that is that it is ok to talk to and about women like that. Indirectly we teach people that it's acceptable to treat us that way. And we don't need that. 

This point Iliza made resonated with me. Because many women tend to treat other women in a negative way. Talking down about other girls, competing with other girls. So I got to thinking where that negative behavior towards other women comes from. And I started to dig deep. Bear with me while I try and explain what I dug up. 

I grew up without siblings. No brothers to stand up to and no sisters to compete with. I didn't even give female competition a second thought until I met my best friend many many years ago. She grew up with a younger sister and the competition between both of them was very eminent/evident. But it wasn't until some of that behavior snuck into our friendship that I started really delving into those feelings of jealousness and competition. They bothered me. Those uncomfortable, unwanted and unnecessary feelings of caring about who looked better in the same dress, who's hair was longer, who got the attention of that hot muscular guy at the bar. Let me also clarify that until I met my best friend (in the second year of my social work studies), I'd always been a bit of a wallflower. So to say. I wasn't necessarily introverted, more just really insecure about myself. Because of my elementary school experience, so far I just hadn't been ready to put myself out there. Socially, emotionally, sensually etc. 
However now I found myself at a turning point. I was freshly single after a 3.5yr relationship ended. I believe my best friend found herself in a somewhat similar situation at that time. This basically created the perfect base for a wonderful friendship. Though also a slippery slope when it came to feelings of competition. I mentioned before that there was definitely a little bit of that going on between us. Luckily we were both studying social work, where you're asked to dive deep within yourself and your own feelings on a daily basis. Because how could you possibly help someone else find insights in themselves from a professional standpoint, if you can't analyze insights in yourself? Right? Right. 
This allowed my best friend and I to address and work through those unwanted feelings. Thankfully (despite a couple of the occasional slip ups) we were able to sort them out and move past them. I'd prefer to say we transcended these issues. 

Ever since I first consciously noticed these issues, I started giving feelings of competition between other women more thought. And I noticed that there are several examples of female relationships in my life that would bring those negative feelings up. Now, because of my background in social work, I mostly try to address  them and look at where they come from in stead of acting on them. 

But it does happen. Sometimes I can't help but be jealous. Of the career opportunities of another woman, or her fashion sense, or the group of strong independent women she's surrounded with, her family, her intelligence, her body type. You name it and I've had jealous feels bugs about it. But as Iliza brought up, it's how you choose to act on these feelings that makes all the difference. So I don't act on them. Because I feel that it is and always has been such a struggle for women to feel empowered ("this is a man's world", hello?), the last thing we should be doing is talking other women down. We do not want and need to show other people that it's ok for someone to talk to or about us that way. The struggle is real enough. 

Where does this struggle of competition and judgement toward other women come from you might ask? Let's look at what popular research says about it. It might help give more insight. 

"The American evolutionary psychologist David Buss found in the eighties that intra-sexual competition takes two primary forms: self-promotion and competitor derogation."
This quote comes from an article on psychology today 2014

It's interesting to see what research says about this issue. Some say it's due to a biological factor, that the need to compete with the same sex has an evolutionary origin. This theory argues that competition originates in the need to find and keep a mate. 
Other theorist argue that the issue is rooted in social influence. This view states that female competition is mainly driven by the influence of men. 

What it all boils down to however, is that it no matter what theory is right about the origin of intra-sexual, it is a bigger problem for women than for men. This has to do with the fact that women tend to be more emotional creatures. Women experience more stress from the effects of female competition and therefor also experience hindrance from it.
"This competition produces much of the stress that interferes with the happiness of many women, especially young ones. Studies show that compared to men, women tend to be more sensitive to emotional information and are better at decoding subtly encoded social and interpersonal messages. In addition, women's sense of self-worth is based more on their peers’ opinions of them. This combination of acute awareness of--and sensitivity to--subtle social cues renders women more vulnerable to indirect interpersonal aggression."

At the end of the day what really matters is looking at what we can do ourselves to break the cycle. There's a reason we say that the first step toward changing a habit is becoming aware of it. Hence the reason why I'm writing this blog article. We might want to reflect on whether the way we communicate involves any of those competitive tactics such as manipulating, shaming or ostracizing other women and the pain it causes them.

So here is my question to you, 

What does it take for us to start encouraging each other as opposed to criticizing, judging, comparing and competing with each other? 

I say we start today. 

Here are 8 tricks to break the pattern:

1. Compliment other women.
Turn your jealousy into admiration. Because ultimately, feeling good for other people makes us feel much better ourselves. Express that admiration, by giving other women compliments. Why not share those positive thoughts and pass them on? 
2. Look in the mirror.               
Look at where feelings of jealousy are rooted within yourself. Address those feelings of not being 'enough' within yourself Stop yourself when you feel you are comparing yourself to another woman 
3. Talk, talk, talk.                      
Talk about the issue with your friends, colleagues or sisters when it comes up. The best way to beat or stop a pattern in its tracks is to address it, talk about it and resolve it. Communication is key. You might be surprised to find out that other women most likely foster similar feelings towards you as well.
4. Solidarity sister.
Support other women in their goals in stead of undermining or undercutting them. Great minds think alike, and you'd be surprised how happy they'll be to do the same for you. Stand with other women, not against them.

5. Protect your boundaries.         
If you're dealing with someone who is not willing to grow past unresolved issues of competition and jealousy, let it go. Do not invest more time and effort than necessary into resolving this but move on. Remember, holding on to something that's not good for you will only keep you from being happy. It won't change the other person who isn't willing to grow. 
6. Be proud.                              
Take pride in your uniqueness. No woman is like you and you are not like any other woman. You are you. Dare to be different and dare to support other women in their uniqueness as well. This is a positive circle we're creating, no way but up from here. 
7. Be nice.                                 
Even if there is someone in your life who isn't willing to resolve and move beyond competition, just be nice. It is your responsibility to be a better version of yourself. In the end the only person you hurt by not being better, is yourself. Trouble with this concept? Let me put it this way. Apparently karma is a vindictive woman as well, and she will get back at you for being a bitch. 
8. Be friends.                           
When you meet a woman who you admire for her style, intelligence, success, status or whatever you prefer, become friends with her. The people you surround yourself with are a great reflection on who you are as a person. It's all in the power of association. More importantly they can help you grow. This enables you to see another woman's success as a cause of celebration, not envy.

For a last word of advice, let it go. It's not possible to like every person you meet in your life and it is not possible for every single person to like you. And that is completely acceptable. As long as you continue to hold yourself to your integrity and still treat them with respect. No need to go 0-Regina George in .2 seconds. Keep in mind that in the end, they're only human too, just like yourself. Think of how you wish to be treated and treat them with the same respect. And remember, what you put out there will come around. Wouldn't you rather that energy be positive? 

In the end, we are all sisters in arms (or heels). We all face the same fights. We battle against political slander, unrealistic beauty standards, social media expectation, comparisons to men in the professional world and so on. In the face of all of these shared challenges, why don't we stop competing, comparing and undermining each other and support each other in stead. 

In the spirit of being a better version of yourself and taking responsibility for change, I know I'm guilty of all of the above. I have compared myself to others, competed with other women and  tried to undermine them and put myself above them. If my jealousy and expression of these negative feeling have hurt anyone, I am sorry. You are unique and I have no right to judge you because of that. Let's move on and agree to be better? Let's be friends? 

In case you're interested in watching Iliza Shlesinger's whole comedy special 'Confirmed Kills' and don't have Netflix, here's a link to the special on YouTube: