There’s an interesting phenomenon among women. While there can be incredibly deep bonds of friendship between us, there’s often an undercurrent of competition, distrust or even full-on sabotage. Let’s put it this way, I rarely hear the term frenemies applies to guys. That’s why when Jeanne and I discussed what topic we wanted to tackle for this installment of our The Kind of Woman series, finding genuine support among our female peers immediately shot to the top of our list.


Being a part of highly positive and extremely supportive community was one of the things I initially adored about the world of blogging {all those years ago!} – it was like a crazy supportive sorority {and yes, there was a handful of pretty awesome guys in the mix too}. I felt like the world had opened up to a playground of likeminded, super nice, super supportive friends where everyone was almost clamoring to help one another. But what was once the cornerstone of made the blogging community so unique now feels like a rarity.

As is often the case when an industry grows and competition increases, that hyper enthusiastic sentiment seemed to wane and the “it’s every woman for herself” feeling became much more prevalent. There are a ton of historic, societal and cultural reasons why women seem to pick at one another much more than men seem to do. I recently read this interesting interview with author and leadership coachTara Mohr who further explained, “to the extent that women are each not fully empowered ourselves – that we are still denying our own dreams or treating ourselves harshly – we will criticize, attack, and try to sabotage other women, because it rattles us to see in them what we have not permitted in ourselves.” It’s really easy to allow self-doubt, fear or pressure make you feel vulnerable – and what do we instinctually do when a vulnerable place? Go into self preservation or attack mode.

Again, I loved Tara Mohr’s thought on this ingrained behavior:

every woman needs to work on a pursuit of her heartfelt dreams for her life and her real passions…When she’s given herself full permission to do that…she can be supportive of other women doing so, too.

Sure there are exceptions to the tendency to cut other women down. Crazy supportive friends {like Jeanne!} are what have kept me excited about chasing my dreams and passions for all these years. But what if that kind of behavior was the rule, not the exception. What if you could walk into a roomful of women with a sincere sense of trust and excitement, rather than a pinch of skepticism or doubt.

We can make a conscious choice to counteract our typical reactions. What if we lead with the idea of “how can I help this person be more successful” knowing that ultimately what goes around will com around. Can you imagine how much power we’d realize when we worked collectively to lift our entire community of driven, creative women up?? Women are so bombarded by messages of who, what and how we’re supposed to be, look, act and even think on a daily basis – wouldn’t it be nice if we chose to opt out of those paradigms and instead stand together in a truly authentic altruistic way?


What do you think? Do you find yourself a part of an authentic, truly supportive community of women, or have you run up against criticism, competition or the like? We’d love for you to weigh in. Be sure to head over to Shop Sweet Things to check out Jeanne’s perspective on this topic.

More interesting commentary on how women can support one another, can help each other counter act gender stereotypes and hopefully, ultimately can band together to be collectively successful here and here.

And check out our previous discussions of Womanhood, Balance and Perfectionism!

photo by ashley batz, quote via here

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  1. I totally agree with you. I like to look at the positive side of things, even though times can be rough. I love the blogging community because of the constant enthusiasm and support. We all rock!

  2. I feel very lucky to have developed friendships among my peers that makes us all mutually-supportive of each others’ projects and goals. We are free enough with each other to constructively criticize, advise, and encourage – and no one gets offended either way. However, I do think that as a culture, if you will, we need to get over our fear of criticism; criticism is a dialogue, a provocation, a starting point for people to develop as creatives and anyone who has been to art or design school knows that. A little bit of criticism is healthy as long as it’s open-minded and balanced, like any opposing viewpoint. If you’re putting yourself out there, you should be open to it. AND, most importantly, it’s not necessarily a negative thing. I ask my community for criticism and it often helps me grow, to get to the next level of my development, and I’m grateful for it. I will also say that I have had experience with the other side of the coin too: people within the community (not friends really, but acquaintances I’d like to know better) who have shut me down at the merest suggestion of a request for advice or support. It definitely stings, but I have to know inside that that’s their decision to shut me out for whatever reason and that it really has everything to do with them and nothing to do with me. I think we could all do with an extra sense of humor and start taking ourselves a little less seriously too…

  3. Completely agree with you Annie that criticism is a key piece of a healthy relationship. Women often struggle with feedback more than men – both giving and it and receiving it – which goes back to the whole likeability myth, but I agree that if feedback comes from a constructive genuine place its critical to both give it and receive it! This piece on how Jenna Lyons is really good at giving feedback is super interesting.

    Incorporating criticism is how we’re going to grow as professionals and as people. Its certainly not a negative. And I think there’s opportunity for women to be concientious of the jealous/competitive tendencies that cause us to undercut one another – certainly more than men do – that aren’t helpful to anyone’s success. If we celebrate one another without comparison – but instead use successes as additional motivation to do/be better ourselves I think we can all benefit – and nuture even stronger relationships in the process!

  4. Thank you for this post!
    After 12 years in a profession dominated by men (architecture), I thought my move to the “designer/maker” community would be a refreshing change from the struggle of being a woman. I thought I would find a group of like-minded women ready to be supportive and helpful. And although I have found a few cases of this, there is also so much competition and what I can only classify as fear. This is perhaps a fear of there not being enough room in the world for all of us and our unique idea.
    Working for myself, I’m sad to say, has become a bit of a lonely place. I hope to continue to try to change that.
    Thank you again for this reminder to not give up.

  5. 100% agree with this post. We’ve been talking a lot about this idea of “supporting other women” at work and it rings true no matter where any of us work!!