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Women's Outreach and Resource Collective | A collaborative community for advocates of gender equity and social justice

The Importance of Shine Theory

By: Julie Saxton

The average girl has probably spent some time comparing herself to other girls. She might look at and compare herself to someone of a lower social status to feel a little better about herself. And she might envy the girl who seems to “have it all”–maybe designer clothes and purses, lots of friends, good grades, good looks, and a cute boyfriend. Watching this girl succeed might bring her self-esteem down and make her feel like she is somehow worse. The same behavior carries over into adulthood. Women look at the women who “have it all” (money, success, style, intelligence, beauty) and feel the same thing: resentment, jealousy, and envy. Sometimes it’s hard not to compare yourself to people like that: If she has everything and I don’t, how can I possibly succeed?

Part of this competition is that women see a limited number of spots at the top. Only so many women can occupy those higher positions, and so they become other women’s biggest competition. That’s when the comparison begins.

But NY Mag‘s Ann Friedman has a different idea: instead of pitting yourself against successful, beautiful, intelligent women, befriend them. She calls this Shine Theory: “I don’t shine if you don’t shine.” If the women surrounding you are the best, you’ll look like one of the best, too. In addition, the confidence they exude will help you to be as confident as you can be. Friedman argues that surrounding yourself with women that “shine” allows people to associate them with you; instead of looking worse in comparison, you’ll look even better. Best of all, it will eliminate the toxic competition between women and instead allow all of us to have healthier relationships and mindsets.

Slate‘s Hanna Rosin has a different opinion. She sees Friedman’s Shine Theory as a little bit too idealistic and a little bit too fake. She doesn’t see this as choosing real friends but instead as “strategic alliances” or “networking.” Rosin argues that real friends will stick together regardless of each other’s looks or professional lives.

And Rosin has a valid point, but I think Shine Theory can extend beyond the professional world. I think it can be whittled down to the one core idea that women should quit the competitive mindset in respect to other women–friends or not. Instead, embrace all of the differences and be kind to every other woman, even if you see feel insufficient in comparison. Maybe Friedman was taking Shine Theory in the wrong direction by advocating “actively pursuing” these relationships in order to make yourself shine. But the principle of stopping the comparisons and the jealousy and the bitterness is too important in today’s world to completely discredit Shine Theory.

CompetitionShine Theory

worcuga • January 26, 2015

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