I heard a quote recently that I absolutely can’t shake. I was at the Q Women conference about a month ago when Sarah Dubbledam, the founder and Editor in Chief of Darling Magazine said something that’s been echoing in my head ever since.
She said, “How can we intentionally make women around us feel more beautiful?”
The question stopped me in my tracks because it’s something I hadn’t thought about before. I’ve thought about how to help other people, how to be a good friend, and how to love other women well. But I’ve never thought about how to make other women feel more beautiful.
It made me wonder why.
Beauty, to me, feels like one of those things where it’s every woman for herself. We understand, at least cerebrally, that if another woman is in a relationship, or gets a promotion, or signs a book deal, it doesn’t steal our ability to do the same. (I said cerebrally. Those things are much harder to understand in practice). But beauty is another animal entirely.
When other women are beautiful, it does feel like they’re stealing something from us.
It feels like there’s this worldwide continuum of beauty, and someone else being beautiful bumps us down a few rungs.
Maybe we don’t say those things out loud; maybe we don’t even admit them to ourselves. But I think that beauty, more than any other area of our lives, is the area where we don’t want to give anything away, because it already feels like there’s not enough to go around.
But I have to believe there’s a better way. I have to believe there’s a better way than secretly high fiving ourselves when our friend goes up a pant size, or feeling like we’ve won when we’re the skinniest, or best dressed woman in the room.
What would happen if we believed there was enough beauty to go around? I’m not sure, but I’d like to find out.
So here are a few ways I’ve come up with to help other women feel more beautiful:
1. Give specific compliments
Have you ever noticed that when someone says, “oh you look cute!” or something equally as generic, it never really sticks? We say that to each other almost as if we’re saying “hi.” It’s a part of our code as women. But have you also noticed how specific compliments stay with us—especially ones that take us by surprise?
I had an old friend email me a few weeks ago. She and I went to high school together and one day I told her that she dresses really well. I don’t remember saying it, but she does, even eight years later. I remember compliments like those too. In 8th grade, a girl told me I have beautiful eyelashes. I still remember exactly where I was sitting when she told me that, and I’ve believed it ever since.
When we’re around other women, let’s give them specific compliments. They not only will stick with them, helping them see beautiful things about themselves they’ve maybe never noticed before. But it will also help reframe the internal dialogue we have about each other. It will keep our minds busy looking for truly beautiful things about them, not looking for hints of a muffin top to make us feel better about ours.
2. Stop criticizing other women
Criticism is like a boomerang. We shoot it off at someone else, and it ricochets back at us. Matthew 7:2 says, “For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.” And that’s so true. If we’re hyper critical of the people around us, we unconsciously assume other people will be that critical of us too. To make matters especially tricky, often the things we criticize others for are the things we’re most insecure about ourselves.
If we can change the conversation, stopping our critical thoughts in their tracks, we might just start seeing women in a new, kinder way. And somehow, with magic-Jesus-boomerang physics, we’ll start seeing ourselves in a new, kinder way as well.
3. Notice how you’re different
I think we can all agree that we’re the meanest to people we’re threatened by. When faced with women we compare ourselves to, we become vicious, tearing them down because it makes us feel small to watch them succeed.
The truth of the matter though, is that we’re all incredibly different. No matter how similar we are to people, there are always things that make us unique, and that’s so comforting to me. Because when we realize we’re unique, we stop feeling replaceable. And when we stop feeling replaceable, we start believing that maybe there’s a place in the world that really is uniquely ours, and maybe we don’t have to fight for it after all.
The more women I meet, the more I’m realizing that we really are beautiful, and I want to celebrate our beauty, sprinkling it around and giving it away for free. I want to intentionally help the women around me feel more beautiful in a prophetic act of believing there’s enough to go around.