Why do women judge before we know who or what we are judging? Why do we compete, betray, criticize, gossip and backstab our female “sisters”?

In this column, I want you to look deep within yourself, remove the mask and denial, and acknowledge when and where you have been the one judging someone unfairly or the one being judged unfairly. My purpose is to bring awareness to this monumental problem so that we can begin to heal ourselves and our communities.

You can’t pick up a book, magazine, or read much in the media about female relationships without a level of competition involved. Why does it happen? Can it be prevented? If so, what can you do to prevent it? Will it strengthen relationships among women if we fix it? Or will it even matter? These and many other questions will be answered in this series. Most women have no idea they are demonstrating this behavior, which is why I felt this series of columns was necessary. We can’t fix what we can’t face, so we’re already conquering the first challenge — facing it.

As a life design strategist and psychologist, I’ve helped many women understand and heal. And, I also discuss these issues in my book, “Secret Betrayal — How to Heal Female Rivalries.” One example that comes to mind is an experience I had during the spring of 2007. I was very excited when I had an opportunity speak at a women’s conference in Cincinnati. I was optimistic, excited, enthused and ready to empower the women. However, when I walked onto the stage, I was met with stares and facial expressions that clearly demonstrated bad attitudes which was something I didn’t expect. As I began my presentation, I launched into an upbeat opening to get the energy up by starting off with positive comments, statements and affirmations. I asked the women to repeat after me: “I am beautiful! I am brilliant! I am successful!” Of the 1,500 women present, I only heard a small number of women repeating the statements. Instead, I continued to receive stares and blank expressions.

Regardless of my energetic attempts, I was met with looks of judgment, disapproval and curiosity. I didn’t understand why there was so much obvious unhappiness since they came to be empowered. I pretended not to notice the obvious looks of hatred and displeasure. As I continued my presentation, I started telling the ladies about my personal journey and how I overcame many obstacles early in life in a dysfunctional family and then later in an abusive marriage. Then, I noticed that the hardened looks began to soften until it turned into looks of interest, intrigue and finally compassion. It was obvious at that moment that the women had, unknowingly, judged me unfairly based on factors unknown.

As I’ve said in my workshops and seminars, painful life lessons come to our lives to make us better not bitter. If we are courageous and strong enough to look deep within the pain, there within lies our purpose. Living a life of purpose is why we we’re born; it’s the reason for our existence. Others around us are here to support; we are here to support each other. If we can understand and embody this concept, we will discover that collaboration, instead of competition, is the goal. Therefore, if we all do our part, we can come together in a unified manner because women are the mothers of mankind.

Cathy Holloway Hill is a life design strategist, psychologist and author of “Secret Betrayal — How to Heal Female Rivalries.”

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