We were at a karaoke bar on a weeknight. I was sitting near a wall-length mirror, and I felt self-conscious about my body.
This night, there were two beautiful young girls in the bar. They were confident, and sexy and did I mention young? They writhed as they belted ACDC songs. I held my boyfriend’s hand tighter and wondered what he was thinking as he watched them.
I had one eye on them all night. Intellectually, I felt happy to see two pretty girls having a good time together. Emotionally, they made me feel bad about myself. I realized that at 33, I was feeling threatened by younger women for the first time.
I’ve gone through stints of hating other women in my life. Growing up, internalized misogyny led me to resist all things inherently feminine. I “wasn’t like those other girls,” whom I thought of as a vapid and petty and superficial.
Anything considered masculine was inherently more valuable than “girly” things. Fuck sisterhood -- I’d seen that the men around me had all the power, and I was willing to throw my whole gender under the bus for a grab at my share.
Then, in my early 20s, I found myself filled with jealous resentment against other women. I was drinking alcoholically and working a job I hated editing test preparation materials for elementary school kids. I loathed myself deeply, so I sneered through my hangover at women who had achieved the things I felt I deserved.
Once I got sober and started having some of my own career success (at least partially because I wasn’t working through a pounding headache every day), I started feeling happier with myself, and the feelings of resentment dissipated.
It wasn’t until that night at the karaoke bar that I realized that hating other women was something I’d have to keep actively resisting throughout my life. So I rounded up a few of the things that have helped me over the years when I started to feel the creeping tendrils of girl hate take root.
1. Jealousy is a sign that something is wrong in your life.
Often, when we scratch the surface of the dislike we feel for someone, we reveal jealousy underneath. Think of jealousy like the feeling of burning yourself – it’s there to give you an important message about your surroundings. People who are completely happy with themselves are a lot less likely to feel it. Use whatever pettiness or jealousy you feel to help you examine what you’d like to do differently in your own life.
Let feelings of jealousy motivate you to take steps to be happier with what you have, and to practice self-love. Once you accept and love yourself, it’s a whole lot easier to come from a place of love and compassion toward other women.
Practically, act “as if.” Go out of you way to give that woman a compliment. Instead of just soaking in a jealous rage, congratulate her personally. She might even become a mentor and an asset on your own road to success.
2. Remember that success is not a zero sum game.
Women are taught to compare and despair. Society pits us against each other, so we often default to seeing other women as competition. But that whole mindset is based on a lie: that someone else’s gain is your loss.
The truth is, success is not a zero-sum game. Another woman’s success doesn’t make you less successful. A woman who is pretty doesn’t make you less pretty. And men are a plentiful, renewable resource, not worth fighting over.
3. Kiss your Britneys.
Furthermore, there will always be someone younger, prettier and more successful than you. You can either be miserable about it or you can make the decision to embrace those women.
As my friend, writer Janice Erlbaum, put it, “Madonna knew she couldn’t beat Britney, so she kissed her instead. Kiss your Britneys.”
4. Don't compare your insides to other people’s outsides.
It’s easy to look at someone and think they have it all together, but we all have our secret pain, and that woman you’re jealous of may be struggling. Just because someone looks put-together or successful doesn’t mean she feels that way. Mostly, we’re all just trying to get by.
5. Spend time with other women.
It sounds obvious, but one of the best ways to get over your hatred of other women is to spend time with them. In recovery communities, there’s a saying that “men will pat you ass, but other women will save it.” Prioritizing relationships with women can change your life.
My great-aunt Karen told me recently, on this topic, “One of the things you learn later in life is that other women will be your world. When a husband dies way too early, the people you depend on are your female friends.”
6. Become a mentor.
The young up-and-comers in your field are going to keep coming, and eventually some of them may start to outshine you. Become a resource to them. Remember that putting a hand down and helping pull another woman up is good for all women.
Furthermore, becoming a mentor and sharing your time and experience is an extremely rewarding experience. And someday, she may be the one giving out the jobs and she’ll remember the person who unselfishly offered guidance and helped her grow. Remember that for every woman you feel jealous of, there might be another one out there wishing she had what you have.
That night at the karaoke bar, as my boyfriend was signing the tab, one of the beautiful young girls I’d spent the night obsessing over approached me.
“Emily?” she said timidly.
She went on to tell me that she was a huge fan of my writing, that she’d been reading me for years, and that my work meant a lot to her. Her compliments evaporated my jealousy and I immediately felt chagrined for ever feeling it.
That moment taught me lesson I haven’t forgotten. That woman you’re feeling jealous of, because she’s successful, or she’s 22, or she has a “perfect” body? She might actually be looking up to you.