Therapist, Julie Hanks, says the first step to embracing other women is to accept ourselves.
Much of the vitality in a friendship lies in the honoring of differences, not simply in the enjoyment of similarities. -Unknown
It’s common for women to view other women’s differences choices, talents, age, race, religion, or marital status as divisive instead of inspiring. Here are six ideas designed to help women come together, to learn from each other, and celebrate our diversity.
1) Accept Yourself
Judgment, criticism, envy of other women is rooted in our own fears and insecurities.
Self-acceptance is the first step to embracing of differences in others and entails embracing our choices, unique talents, weaknesses, and life circumstance. Life is about growth and relationships are the soil in which we learn and grow.
It’s taken me years to accept my passion for education. I used to think, “I have small children. Why do I feel such a great desire to go to graduate school?” I used to compare myself to other women with small children who were content and fulfilled without complicating their lives with graduate school. Now, I have a deeper appreciation of my own personal desires and goals, making it easier to embrace other women’s choices.
“I really believe that one of the big reasons we feel threatened by other women’s choices is out of a feeling of insecurity about our own. The women who I feel like are able to celebrate that we all have our own paths are the ones who are at peace with the choices they have made.” – Katie Clifford
2) Eliminate The “Shoulds”
Believing that other women “should be more like me” creates feelings of judgment and criticism that create distance from other women. Conversely, “I should be more like them” leads to self-judgment, low self-worth, and anxiety.
One of the largest lines drawn in the sand between women seems to be the “working vs. stay-at-home mom” divide. This is a false dichotomy because all women work! It’s easy to talk about this divide in such extremes. Most mothers I know work very hard at whatever they are involved in and they are fiercely dedicated to their children.
“Maybe we could all start by being honest about the inherent struggles that come with each of those choices. If both “sides” felt comfortable being open about their lives, it would make everyone feel less defensive and find some common ground.” – Katie Clifford
“There is pressure on both sides of (the working vs. stay-at-home mom) issue. Social and religious pressure can make a woman feel like she needs to be home. Financial pressure can make a woman feel like she needs to be working. Every woman and every family are different. As we let go of the pressure we feel from others, we are less likely to pass that on to the people around us. I think we need to start a “Girl Code” where we focus more on loving and supporting each other! We are AMAZING when we come together!” – Amy King Walker says
3) Let Differences Inspire You
If you find yourself getting caught in the deflating game of “she’s so much better at (fill in the blank) than I am”, consider letting another woman’s gift, skill or trait be a springboard for the development of that particular gift or character trait. For example, younger women can look to older women for perspective and wisdom from life experiences, and older women may be inspired by younger women’s energy and passion.
I’ve mentioned my friend Sarah on the show before. She’s well into her 90’s so to say we’re in a difference age category is an understatement. Years ago when I was a new mother, she inspired me to view every life challenge as an opportunity to develop love and faith in my heart. Though she had been through many losses in her life, including the death of her first child, her husband’s substance abuse, she had used those experiences to develop deeper love and faith and inspired me to do the same.
“I have a friend who has never married and she is 40. She has 3 fantastic dogs that she loves, and she competes in Ms. Fitness competitions. All of my friends have aspects of their lives that are different than mine. I don’t have time to do all of these things, so I can benefit from them and their experiences.” — Mary Evans
“One way women can associate with one another is to share their talents. I have learned to sew from another woman in my church group.”– Kaija Purvis
4) Go Below The Surface
Judgment and criticism often stem from seeing only the superficial aspects of another woman’s life. Once you go deeper and get to another’s heart and mind, pain and joys, it’s so much easier to understand their choices and celebrate the differences. People make sense once you understand their story.
This is one aspect of clinical practice that I absolutely love. Every time I go to work I get to see into client’s hearts, families, hear their pain and their strengths, and hear their real stories. I have found that it’s always easier to accept and understand someone, even if they’ve made destructive choices, if you know and experience their story. People make sense.
5) The Grass Isn’t Greener
It’s easy to look at the lives of others with jealousy and envy when they have what we think we want. Every situation has five positive aspects and five very difficult aspects. No woman “has it all.” Seeing the diversity can help you appreciate what you do have.
Married women can learn to better appreciate their imperfect relationship from their single friends who wish they were in a committed relationship. Single women can learn to embrace their independence, freedom, and emotional space by learning to their married friend’s relationship situations.
“After a visit with an elderly widow, I am grateful for my hectic household, or a divorced friend might make me appreciate my husband more that day. A disabled friend makes me thankful I can shovel the driveway or mow the lawn.” – Debbie Nowers
6) Seek Out The Unfamiliar
Instead of gravitating socially to those who are just like you, when you walk into a room, or party, or gathering, actively seek out someone who is different from you — difference age group, different marital, socioeconomic status. Ask yourself, “What can I learn about her? What can I learn from her?”
“I celebrate differences with my friends by getting involved in things that they like. We invite each other to participate not only in fun activities, but also to tag along to business and family functions.” – Shawna Henry
Julie de Azevedo Hanks, LCSW is a therapist, self & relationship expert, media contributor, and director of Wasatch Family Therapy. Visit www.wasatchfamilytherapy.com for individual, couple, family, & group counseling services designed to strengthen you and your family. We treat mental health and relationship problems in children, adolescents, and adults.
For additional emotional health & relationship resources connect with Julie at www.drjuliehanks.com.