“Here’s my solution: When you meet a woman who is intimidatingly witty, stylish, beautiful, and professionally accomplished, befriend her. Surrounding yourself with the best people doesn’t make you look worse by comparison. It makes you better.” – Ann Friedman
I can count on one hand the amount of “cat fights” I’ve had in my life. Most of them happened in high school, as they do. I consider myself lucky in that department, and some of my friends today are friends I’ve had since elementary school. However, those handful of times when I had a disagreement or falling out with a friend were not fun. Not fun at all. Looking back, I can see clearly what caused those arguments, and it is an emotion all too prominent among women: jealousy.
Both men and women are taught to compete with each other, to be desired by all genders, to be impressive. We compete for jobs, spouses, and yes, friendships. Women have to be moms and career-savvy and sexy as hell, all at the same time. We all feel pressure to be all of the things, all of the time, and the worst part of that is that we often feel like no one is in our corner. We tell ourselves Why would anyone care about my success? We isolate ourselves and try to do it all alone, because that woman over there does it on her own. We see other women on Instagram or in real life who (seemingly) have their shit together, and we’re left thinking I’ll never be that popular/smart/organized/skinny/successful. Of course, no one wants to feel like they are a lackluster human specimen, but this idea that we have to be better than everyone around us is exhausting, not to mention likely the reason we miss out on good, true human interaction. We’re too busy keeping our guards up, trying to one-up the other person, unable to allow our egos to fall away and actually root for the other person.
I first read about Shine Theory a few years ago, but it wasn’t until I started thinking of building up Mountain Gypsy as a business that I realized how valuable this mindset could be, not only for the business, but for my own happiness. When women support each other — genuinely and whole-heartedly root for each other — magic can happen. Instead of seeing that social media queen or entrepreneur or mom or whoever and feeling bad about yourself, what if you befriended her? What if you sent her a message complimenting her style or thanking her for her encouraging post about body image or appreciate her for being real about the fact that her kids don’t eat organic coconut for every meal? What if, instead of feeling jealous of other women, we reached out and told them how badass we think they are?
I was recently added to something called an Instagram Pod, which is basically a group of like-minded people with similar business/blog/life goals to support each other into gaining traction on social media and working around Instagram’s annoying algorithm. The pod I’m in is all women, and we all work in some sort of self-employment. This little group of women is supportive, encouraging, and most of all, reliable. To me, this group is the ultimate example of Shine Theory in motion, because some of us have never met in real life. It’s not just a group of my girlfriends — these are basically strangers — but we are connected in the fact that we want to succeed and (here’s the key) we want each other to succeed, too.
This idea is not just for business-related things in life. I think it’s important to implement Shine Theory into already established friendships and friendships that are still being built. In Ann Friedman’s piece, she said her friend told her “I don’t shine if you don’t shine.” How beautiful is that? The idea that my friends’ success and happiness means that I, too, am successful and happy, or that we are both equally worth celebrating, is humbling and wonderful.
A few weeks ago, I woke up feeling off kilter. I hated my body that day, I felt busy and flustered, and just generally felt like I wasn’t enough. Kyle knew something was wrong. But I knew if I actually said it out loud, I would cry, and then my day would really be ruined. So I told him I’d be fine and not to worry. He hugged me and encouraged me, but I knew I’d let myself get too far into this spiral. I knew I had to shake it off. I had things to do and people to see, but this mood was not budging. I just need someone to say something nice to me today, I thought. Maybe I’ll feel better then.
The day before, I’d attended an event at a local wine bar that my good (and relatively new) friend was helping to host, and had a wonderful time hanging with women around town and seeing my dear friend. The next night, after I’d felt terrible all day, I received this text message:
“I know you know, or should!!, that you (and your fam) are the ultimate blessing in my life but I just want to single you out in thanks for last night. You had nothing to gain theoretically by coming and yet came. Your presence calmed and supported me and I was just thrilled to have a best friend there. I’ve thought about you all day and just can’t thank you enough for being you.”
That was it. That’s what I needed. I had no idea my friend felt that way after I attended an event she was helping host. I went because I wanted to hang out with her, and of course to support her, but really, I love her and spending time with her and I love wine, so of course I went. And yet, my being there helped her in some way. I hadn’t considered that. What I’d been holding in all day, this feeling of self-doubt, turned into a feeling of relief and release.
Shine Theory. Because I supported my friend without even knowing how much she really needed me there, she lifted me up even though she had no idea I’d been in a funk with myself.
You give what you get.
Surround yourself with people who fill you up, the people who aren’t threatened by your success or your style or your relationship status, and be sure to show them the same kind of love and support. Foster relationships that are real and true, and in turn, you will cultivate a life that is full of people who have your back.