Shine Theory is a term coined by Ann Friedman who wrote about it for New York Magazine. I listen to her podcast, Call Your Girlfriend (she co-hosts with her bestie Aminatou Sow and I love them both) and after hearing them talk about it I googled the term and read her article. I liked it a lot. I also read an interview of Jam Wilson for Styleite where the discusses Shine Theory and what she makes of it. Instead of Friedman’s “If you don’t shine, I don’t shine” she modified it to “If you shine, I shine” and I actually like that better.
It’s a well established talking point that women are taught that we’re always in competition with one another. I can’t speak for men, as I am not a man, but there does seem to be a tendency to compare ourselves to other women. I remember being much younger and immediately taking a dislike to any girl I thought was smarter, prettier, or more popular than me. I quickly came up with reasons to justify my dislike of her: she dressed like a tart (hello slut shaming!), she was stuck up, she was arrogant, etc. I basically reduced her to things that I now know are nothing but toxic garbage. I think it’s okay to be insecure at times but it is important to learn to recognize that insecurity and see it for what it is. There will always be people who we perceived to be more accomplished than us in something. Instead of begrudging another woman her successes we should celebrate them! Instead of making their accomplishments about us, and how they make us feel inferior we should work on silencing that negativity that sucks the joy and genuineness out of our friendships.
Powerful, confident women are wonderful and instead of cutting them down in order to make ourselves feel better we should regard them as mirrors in which we can see our own awesomeness and potential. I know that it can be a struggle to see those closest to you moving onwards and upwards but instead of snarking about them behind their backs how about we practice being legitimately happy for other women? I have friends who are at different stages in their lives, some are stay-at-home parents, others are working parents, some are authors in addition to the previous two, some are lawyers, teachers, PhD candidates, etc. They are all amazing in their own right and every time they achieve something I am genuinely happy for them and it feels great to be happy for my friends. To celebrate them and their lives instead of measuring up how their lives stack up to mine is one of the most positive things I can do.
What do you do when you meet somebody you find intimidating? Imagine they’re well put together, oozing confidence and poise. Do you recoil from them, thinking that you’re not good enough to befriend them? Do you immediately hate them, assuming the worst of them? Or do you simply see a shine that mirrors your own? We should all strive for the latter.
I recently interviewed and went on to secure a seasonal job at a nearby retailer. It’s a part-time thing I’ll be doing twice a week and I’m excited about it. When I told some of my friends I saw a wonderful example of shine theory. They were SO happy for me! They were as excited as I was for this new job. I cannot describe how wonderful it feels to have people legitimately share in your joy. I am at a point in my life where I WANT to see my fellow women succeed. I want them to reach that highest peak, get that doctorate degree, build that multi-million dollar dream house, all without any ill feelings. When you stop making other people’s lives about you, you become happier.
Something else I think ties into Shine Theory is perception. How we perceive ourselves and others is not necessarily reality. The person you think of as most confident might actually feel like they’re falling apart on the inside. The woman whose figure you envy might struggle with body confidence and even admire your own figure. The point is that we are all worthy and we are all good. Life is not meant to be lived in one way.
To me, Shine Theory is about uplifting all women starting with ourselves. Self-hate is real and I see it too often in women and girls. The worst part is that we take this internalized hate and project it outwards. I recently read a blog post that was talking about being thankful for girlfriends. It was a lovely post with good intent but it left me feeling bit off. The author mentioned that she doesn’t like drama but that a lack of drama is hard to find in women because women like to talk. This was such a backhanded jab at women and it really bugged me. Putting down other women in order to lift up your friends is the wrong way of cerebrating anything. Women being gossipy and drama-prone is such a tired stereotype. If it was an attempt at humor by the author it fell flat (for me). The idea that women make shitty friends because they are drama queens might be supported by anecdotes but in reality any human being is capable of pettiness. To be honest I once shared that perception about women but I have since learned that it starts with me. My attitudes, my beliefs about my fellow women greatly impact the interactions I have with them.
Shine theory resonated with me because it’s something I was already doing in my life and it took a conscious effort to make the switch from insecurity and jealousy to unwavering support and genuine enthusiasm for the accomplishments of other women. In a way it’s one of those fake it til you make it type of things because breaking years of bad habits is difficult and silencing the snarky thoughts you once voiced about women you resented instead of admired is difficult but it’s worth the effort. Even somebody you might not get along with should be celebrated for their achievements and perhaps this is not a person you would personally congratulate but you can silence the unkind words you would have expressed before. I don’t have to like you but I won’t put you down either.
As Jam Wilson said in her interview, “Shine Theory is all about supporting, uplifting, complimenting, and encouraging women who are just doing great. Whether that means she looks great today or she’s doing really well career wise, Shine Theory is celebrating other women for their achievements without jealousy or ulterior motives. I just want to celebrate women in any way I can!”
I don’t mean to end on a sour note but I figured that I would also add my opinion on disliking other women. It’s okay to not jive with everyone you meet. Shine Theory does not mean you have to be kind and friendly towards all women just because but I think it’s about being more intentional and mindful of what we put out there and why. We are all capable of differentiating between toxic pettiness and legitimate gripes we might have with an individual 😉
Lastly, I wanted to give a shoutout to my fellow book loving friend, Sarah who just launched her book rec blog Between Two Books. I am thrilled for her as she had been talking about doing this for a while. Please check her out if you’re looking for book recs. She has a reputation for picking winners 😀
I hope you’re all having a wonderful week. Remember to shine.