Success. What is it? More importantly, What is it not?
Success is not a contest. It is not a measure of who is better. Sure, you can be successful in a relay race, but it does not mean you won the relay race. Maybe you bettered your time, or you finally didn’t faint afterwards. Both of those things are considered successes, if you feel you have accomplished something. Yeah, maybe someone else technically came in 1st place, but why should that deter you from being proud of yourself? It shouldn’t.
Why do we, as women, feel like success is toxic if it is happening to someone else?
I have been surrounded by strong women my entire life, and the majority of groups I identify with are mainly women. My family is ¾ female, I went to an all-girls high school, I’m a sister in a sorority and my course of study at my school is widely all women (yo, male Communications and Art students where ya at?) Because of this, I have always applauded the women around me. In high school I cheered for the girls who got into their top choice school, even if I didn’t. In my sorority, I always try to show up to whatever event/award ceremony is going on for one of my sisters, even if I was denied membership, etc. I am truly happy for these women to be succeeding. Just because they have accomplished something I haven’t (yet) or something different than me, does not mean I am any less successful. It just means that my success lies elsewhere. Then they will be the ones congratulating and showing up for me.
I believe in this mantra, collaboration over competition. Let me explain it before you go all “competition is healthy” on me. Healthy competition is great. It drives people to produce better, execute smarter and learn from each other. Unhealthy competition is where the back stabbing, tear-downs, and inappropriate behavior comes in and I have not met a single person who enjoys being in that sort of environment, in school, work, or otherwise. Collaborating with each other is the key to success in my opinion. When you collab, it is an infusion of creative and logic from two different and unique sets of perspectives. It gives your team an edge. You are able to check each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and you build something together. Being self-made is a wonderful thing, but even the greats had some help along the way and no one gets to the top and stays if they just continually disrespect and humiliate others instead of building them up especially in the girl world.
Now, I’m not the only one who knows that our “girl world” has a bad wrap. We do. People stereotype women and think that we are all a bunch of jealous, crazy, lunatics who cannot stand celebrating other women in our fields, our schools, our families, or in our life in general. But let me tell you something. If you stop looking at success as being a competition to be won, and start thinking about it as being a collaboration to build a better future for you, your friends, your daughters, and all of the other women in your life… then wouldn’t her success also benefit you? I think it would. When another woman becomes CEO, she is opening doors for other women to also lead and take on other jobs that were only reserved for men. When another woman becomes a mother, she is bringing another wonderful human into this world. When another woman runs and wins for a congressional seat in your government, you are one step closer to being equally represented (in the US). So, instead of cursing that woman for getting that promotion instead of you, or being jealous of that woman whose pregnancy was easier than yours, or tearing down a politician for wearing a pantsuit on her candidacy tour, stop and think. Think about the doors these women are opening for all of us, and celebrate those wonderful successes because at the end of the day, the more positive and influential women we have in this world, the better off we will all be.
Success is not a competition to be won. Once we learn that success is plentiful for everyone, and there is no such thing as stealing success I think our world may be less of a Mean Girls movie and more of a world I want my future daughter to grow up in.
Marissa Baum is a lifelong student, creator, and advocate for fostering authentic relationships. Residing in Philly, she enjoys writing, photography, and finding new brunch spots to Instagram.
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