In my early twenties, I had a job where I worked in an office with three other women. Our boss was twice my age, very fit and energetic and seemed to check me out head to toe each morning as I arrived at work. She would comment on my outfit or jewelry, in that way that you don’t know if someone is really being nice or nasty. Often the next day she would come to work wearing something similar to what I had the previous day, but nicer or bigger and better in some way. It didn’t take me long to realize we were in competition. Whether I wanted to be or not. The whole thing made me so uncomfortable that I didn’t work for the organization for long because I wasn’t interested in competing with this woman.
For years I have struggled with comparing myself to other women, trying to answer the questions that seem to hound the female gender: am I beautiful? am I too much? am I normal? I believe that most women have a personal gauge they use, constantly comparing and tallying up wins and losses against other women. This may sound callous, but a woman who completely denies it is lying or blind. One may say it’s not an issue now, but few can deny that it ever has been.
We have two teenage daughters who are gorgeous inside and out and yesterday they both got dressed up for church and reminded me how stunning they can actually be. Now, I have a choice to make; I can try to outdo or I can remember it’s no longer about me. I have watched many Moms accept this progression well, encouraging their girls and helping them reach their full potential. But I have also watched women compete against their daughters, wearing the same styles and sharing their clothes. Some will even antagonize their daughters, comparing weight and clothing size, or talk to their friends about them in condescending ways. Mom, there comes a time when you must take a step back and allow your girl(s) to be beautiful. Period.
Julia Roberts was in a movie about ten years ago called ‘Mona Lisa Smile’ and in an interview she was asked what it was like to work with many beautiful women who were 10-12 years her junior. Her reply was simply, “You can’t out-cute kittens.” She knew the secret, that although she is beautiful, there is a slew of women on her heels who also fit our culture’s rigid standard for beauty and she cannot compete. Let’s take her cue and encourage our young women by working with them, not against them. Game on.