Pre-read explanatory note: I’m not sure what I wanted to do with this post really, but here it is. I’ve written it and rewritten it a few times, and I’m still not sure it’s right. I don’t want it to come across all preachy and mansplainy, because I’m well aware that lots of people experienced the enlightenment it contains, some time ago – or better yet, have never felt the need to compare themselves, or judge other women, ever in their lives.

But it’s an evolving part of my personal and business development, and I wanted to share it with anyone who has ever felt judged, unworthy, or judgy of others themselves. Just in case it helps.I’d also love it if the rest of the world stopped doing it too. End. (Also the title was really difficult to come up with, so I thought I’d keep it simple. Don’t judge me.)

If you’re a woman, the chances are that at some point in your life, you have been guilty of comparing yourself to other women. It’s not surprising, because it’s the default position – it’s the one that is fed to us all over the media, in the gutter press, the film industry, soap operas, books – even daytime television. Look at her – SHE’s not doing it right, SHE looks dreadful, SHE is a bad mother, SHE doesn’t know what she’s doing, SHE’s ‘let herself go’ (whatever that means).

Other women are stacked up to be the competition, people to compare yourself against. The terribly sad thing is that millions of women buy into this, without even questioning it. For years, I did too. But it’s toxic, it’s medieval, and it belongs to a time when we weren’t all able to live life the way we feel we want to. It drags you down. You can miss all sorts of opportunities if you’re constantly criticising others, or worrying in turn about what people are saying about you. And when you’re in this negative pit of despair, it takes some real effort to haul yourself out of it. It takes self-confidence, and a shift of focus onto yourself and what you have to offer, rather than what everyone else is like.

I met Sharon Strickland at one of my network meetings – her business is Bravetart Coaching (what a great name) – and she encouraged every one of us to think of ourselves as an expert, because everyone is amazing at something. Finding a whole bunch of women who want to build each other up, not immediately assume everyone is in competition, is life-changing.

Someone else once told me that you can learn something from every single person you meet. And by the same token, everyone can learn something from you – and I’ve discovered that networking is so much more than finding new business contacts. It’s about finding a tribe that will make you even better than you are now.

Nobody can offer what you can, in the way that you do it – not just in business, but in friendship, family and love too. Snuffing out someone else’s candle doesn’t make yours shine any brighter – but helping them grow their flame will help yours to light up the darkness as well.

“You will never be criticised by someone who is doing more than you. You will only be criticised by someone doing less.” I don’t know who wrote this, but it’s worth remembering if you ever face criticism from someone who isn’t quite as enlightened as you. Shared this week by the fabulous coach and therapist, Caroline Strawson.

I’m also part of another wonderful online community that’s open to all women, in the same spirit – find out more in this post about the Styled by Susie Tribe, and come and join us!

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