I feel like we have FINALLY gotten to the point (two and a half years later, mind you) where we’ve stopped judging and comparing storm stories post Hurricanes Irma/Maria.
She was here for the storms, she left for the storms, she left after the storms, she stayed during and after, she had no damage, lost her roof, lost her house, and on and on. As an island community, we were always measuring our own experiences against everyone else’s around us, as though we could quickly determine who suffered more or less than someone else.
I’m soooo glad that’s over. Post-storm life is hard enough without that added factor of trauma comparison. Now, we are just back to our regularly scheduled programming of judging and comparing our general situations and lives to those around us. After repeatedly being offended by comments directed at myself and those close to me, I realized that I wasn’t only a victim of these comments and actions, but I, too, was guilty of saying and doing the same thing to other women. And this eye-opening realization got me thinking…
As I sat there in a conversation the other day with two other other women, a compliment from one of them came my way. She was mentioning something I had been a part of – something that I am very proud of – so I thanked her for the compliment. Before we could change the subject, the other women interjected with, “Of course you can do that, you don’t have kids.” This is something I hear regularly, and I can often just let that comment slide (despite thinking it is an extremely insensitive thing for someone to ever say to a woman for so many reasons, including that you never know what her circumstances may be… perhaps she’s not been able to conceive, etc), but this time, it triggered a very defensive and equally as rude response from me.
It got my wondering… Why is it that we as women feel the need to discount or diminish other women’s achievements by putting them down in some manner in an attempt to feel better about ourselves? There is often a need to compare others’ achievements to our own, and tell ourselves and them that we too could do what they’ve done if only we were single, had a spouse, had a cleaning lady, didn’t have kids, didn’t work, had a job, had a nanny, etc. Here’s the truth: Life is hard. It’s hard for all of us. Some people are better at making it look easy, but believe me, it’s not the breeze it looks like from the outside… ever!
Can we just be gentle with each other and stop judging? Just like there is always someone who is going to be worse off than you, there is always going to be someone whose situation seems like it’s easier than yours. That doesn’t make their struggles or successes any less real or important than your own. The “That must be nice.’” and “I could do that too if…” comments are getting old. What’s incredible is seeing a friend graduate with her masters or doctorate, run a race, travel around the world, start a business, have a baby – whatever it may be! Whether we’ve birthed humans, achieved a goal, furthered our education, or WHATEVER it is we may have done, we are in this together ladies. Rather than putting each other down and discounting each other’s accomplishments, let’s recognize that.
When your childless friend does something awesome, tell her it’s awesome! Leave out the comment about how you or anyone else could do the same thing if they didn’t have kids. When your stay at home mom friend with a nanny tells you she is exhausted and needs some alone time, SHE DOES! Be supportive. For the most part, we are all doing the best that we can and will only do better and be better with the support and encouragement from other women. To all of you ladies out there, you are doing amazing.
We do something very similar when we see other women taking time to themselves for any sort of self care. When another woman tells us she’s getting a massage, or taking a trip, or sending her kids to her parents so she can have a moment to herself. Instead of a hurtful and inconsiderate “That must be nice,” consider telling her how happy you are for her that she is able to do that. Your time will come. We are ALL entitled to the time we need to recharge and recover, and it’s not up to ANYONE besides ourselves to deem us worthy or deserving of that time. It’s up to us as women to support each other and encourage each other to take those moments. As the saying goes, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” So maybe keep that in mind when you hear someone say they are doing that, and try to not feel guilty when you do the same. YOU are worthy. YOU are deserving. We all are.
I do feel like it’s a privilege to live on this island, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not hard sometimes And it’s a lot easier and more enjoyable when you have the support and encouragement of your fellow island women around you. Let’s remember that and be gentle with each other.
Be supportive, be kind.