Several women in my life have betrayed me. From adolescence through adulthood I have had to overcome the intense feelings that come with being backstabbed and hurt by my own gender. During my elementary school years I was “dumped” by my best friend for another older and prettier girl. When I went to boarding school for my junior and senior year of high school I was hazed by an older girl who came into my dorm room and dumped water on me in the middle of the night. For a long time I accepted and embraced these kinds of female relationships because I was conditioned and taught to believe that women needed to fight for their place, and that the competition was fierce. I was convinced that there was something wrong with me, and for years I struggled with the shame of being rejected simply for being a female.
Now, in my current practice as a Psychologist I see many cases of female betrayal, and the pain it causes on the deepest level. A woman sleeping with a married man, staying connected to an old boyfriend when his new girlfriend feels threatened, not telling a colleague their about to get fired, and watching a good friend’s husband have an affair without telling are just a few examples of the female betrayal I witness regularly.
The truth is that women really need to stick together. It’s been a long hard rode to finding liberation, and we cannot afford to fight our own gender on top of everything else we need to overcome to feel whole and strong. It wasn’t until much later that I began to deeply appreciate the value of the women in my life on a much greater scale. The women I run with are well aware that we need to travel in packs, and that there is no greater gift than the loyalty and support of another woman.
Standing in solidarity is essential among the female species because we can’t afford to do it any other way, nor should we be expected to settle for anything less.
I had to think long and hard to try and understand why some women don’t seem to value the female relationships they should be holding sacred. In my assessment female betrayal is more a byproduct of our culture than it is the individual woman. Most of us (not all) have not been raised to honor our female friendships above all else. We have been conditioned to put “our men” first, to see other women as competition not allies, and to feel unworthy and desperate about our own lovability. We have not been taught to depend on each other for what we need, and to find security in the historical kinship we share as a gender.
If we want to survive and thrive as women we have to respect and honor each other enough to not hurt and betray one another. For many of us the solution is about choice of friends and making careful decisions about the women we align with. For others there is more work to be done that begins with looking within to understand how to forge healthier female relationships.
Here are the three places within the self that could be explored as a healing path toward positive female connection:
When women envy each other things go dark very quickly. Envy is the insatiable desire to have what she has regardless of consequence. It’s a very human emotion that can turn ugly if left unchecked. Women envy each other’s looks, clothes, hair, job, body and man. We are taught that how we look and who we are with reflects our status. As a result we will do anything to stay on top including betraying the women in our way.
The work here is to feel complete in your own sense of self, and to feel satisfied with your natural gifts and beauty. Every woman is uniquely herself, and as women we need to honor that as much as we would with our own daughters.
Women feel a sense of competition toward one another because we’ve been trained to feel threatened, and this competition is strongest around the pursuit of a man. Women are so intuitive and wise when it comes to men so we are much better off consulting than competing with each other. It seems like we would make less mistakes if we could turn to our sisters for their insight and perspective on the men we blindly choose. Instead we decide that we would rather rob our girlfriends of the man they’ve won than stand aside in support of her happiness.
The work here is to turn the need for competition into collaboration as the feeling of needing to conquer transforms into the realization that one happy woman is the path to our own sense of happiness.
When women feel unworthy they act from a place of desperation resulting in behaviors that are not aligned with being a woman standing in her full power. Building a stronger sense of self-worth starts by aligning with other strong women for the support needed, and working toward shedding old beliefs about inferiority. This is needed particularly among younger women as the role modeling in today’s culture represents negative stereotypes like mean girls and unappealing characteristics that aren’t natural to the female condition.
The work here is to look internally for self-worth, and to stay surrounded with people that support the strength and beauty inherent in all women.
I don’t say it lightly that women are essential for the health of the world. If we are not healthy internally, and even more importantly in our relationship to each other then everyone suffers. Tapping into the inherent female qualities of intuition, compassion, empathy and nurturance make us extremely powerful and special. Let’s offer each other the gifts we’ve been given while strengthening ourselves in the process.