I’m reading Rachel Hollis’s book Girl, Wash Your Face, and this post is inspired by her chapter on being judgmental and competitive–especially woman on woman.
She starts the chapter by telling a story about how in high school she made fun of a girl who admitted to shaving her toes when she herself shaved her toes, too. And I just loved this because reader, I shave my toes, too.
The point of the story is, as Hollis writes, that
“tearing down other women is usually based on something no less frivolous than the insecurities of our fourteen-year-old selves.”
And it’s true. When I was in high school and my big toe first sprouted a long, dark hair, I was horrified and mortified. I started regularly running the razor over it every time I shaved my legs to smooth over my unruly body. God forbid anyone see the hair and–gasp–see my humanity showing.
Hollis asks why we gossip and put other women down. She wonders:
“Does it make us feel better about ourselves? Does it make us feel safer to mock someone who has stepped outside the parameters we deem acceptable? If we can point out their flaws, does doing so diminish our own?”
She recognizes–and I love this–that when we point our finger at someone else, the other three are pointing back at us.
It’s true. When I look back on times and situations when I was at my most judgmental, I realize those were also the times and situations when I felt most vulnerable, most insecure, most afraid. I felt that I wasn’t doing it right, whatever it was.
If I judged someone for wearing more or less makeup than I do, more or less stylish clothing than I do, just being in the world in a way that was different from my way, it was because I was feeling super insecure about my choices.
And a lot of times, Hollis points out, our judgment is closely related to a compulsion to compete, even if we say we aren’t competitive. Maybe we have to be prettier or smarter or more athletic or cooler or a better mom or a better teacher or a better spouse or keep a cleaner house or be a better cook or whatever. But do we really? Isn’t there room at the table for everyone, wherever they are on their path? Can’t we admit that we rarely know the full story and if we assume someone is wrong because they aren’t doing it our way, that actually we might not have it all figured out? That judging just makes us feel safer in our own choices?
I don’t know anyone’s full story. I don’t have it all figured out. A lot of times, I don’t feel safe in my choices. And yeah, judging totally makes me feel like I do have it figured out and I have made the “right” choices. But as I learn to like who I am, I am judging a lot less.
Hollis says that the number one thing her readers write to her about is how to make and keep friends–the kind of friends you call in a crisis, whom you can tell anything and know they’ll be right there with you.
This is something that I’ve brought up to my therapist recently. I don’t think I’ve been very good at friendship. And I think it’s because I’ve been scared for much of my life. I’ve been insecure about myself and so I’ve held back, not giving it all away. I feared that if I revealed too much, then the other person would “have something on me” and I’d never be safe from judgment.
There are certainly a few women who I’ve opened up to, mostly because I felt safe with them. But I want to do it more. Happily, the more self-confidence I develop, the more secure I feel in my choices, and the more I think I’ll be able to open up. And yeah, someone’s probably going to judge me for that–just now learning to develop self-confidence, at 32! Oh well. Like I said, I don’t have it all figured out.
Another side effect is rather than feeling threatened by other women’s successes, especially in areas where I want to feel successful, I feel unqualified joy in their successes. Look at her. She went for it and she got it, and you know, if I want to think about myself, her success only makes it easier for me because the road has been paved and the example set. Good for all of us.
It feels extremely scary to share this on here, that I have been so insecure and judgmental in the past. But I don’t think anyone is perfectly immune. And it’s something that can be fixed. I think checking ourselves when we get judgy or competitive is the ticket to not only deeper friendship but also empowering and supporting all women. As the old adage goes, we get it enough from men. We have to stick together. Even if you don’t actually say anything aloud, just thinking more positive thoughts about other women–the way someone is dressed, the way her kid is behaving in the grocery store, the color of her lipstick–will change you.
And of course, the more forgiving you are to yourself, the more forgiving you will be to everyone else. We’re all just fumbling along in the dark, panic stewing at varying intensities inside all of us that we might be doing it wrong, or we’re going to die someday, have no way of knowing when or how, and what the hell are we supposed to do in the meantime. Let’s just be kind to one another instead of imagining that pointing out everyone else’s “flaws” will somehow wash us clean of our own.