Why women judge
Dr. Suzana Flores, a licensed clinical psychologist with more than 15 years of experience reveals she's seen the women-judging-women dynamic quite often. She believes women may have difficulty relating to one another in a non-competitive atmosphere for many reasons. First, she says, "No matter where you are raised, women often grow up with strict societal standards emphasizing beauty and appearance. In order to meet with standards that society places on us, we often measure ourselves against other women." She also feels that many mothers conceal the hardships they may be experiencing in their new role, leading others to feel they are not good enough and feeling resentment and jealousy.
Tammy Whitten, licensed marriage and family therapist, certified family life educator and owner and founder of womenmanagingstress.com, agrees that our own insecurities often lead us to judge others. She says, "Women have high standards for themselves and yet often feel inadequate about their abilities at the same time. When they see another woman who's able to meet that standard, it opens the door for them to judge."
Toni Coleman, psychotherapist, relationship and body language expert and founder of Consum-mate.com, also notes that women often judge one another for choices they've made. For example, she says, "When a woman chooses to work outside the home, she can be a threat to a woman who chooses to stay at home and vice versa. Even though both women choose, there can be guilt and concern that they will not be as good a mother, or as capable and independent a person as their stay-at-home or working outside the home counterpart."
Why it's bad for us... and our kids
The insecurities that women and mothers feel are often rooted by society's idea of perfection — one that is not only unrealistic but nearly impossible to obtain.
President and founder of the Critical Therapy Center, Silvia M. Dutchevici, MA, LCSW, says, "As our culture creates an idealized version of femininity — white, young, heterosexual and rich — most women feel bad about their less than perfect achievements."
She notes, "These insecurities coupled with a neo-liberal ideology that if you work hard enough you can achieve anything you want, with no mention of institutional barriers, fosters an environment where women are more likely to judge themselves and others. In order to stop this cycle, one needs to critically think about what one considers feminine and empowering."
The need to compete with or judge other women can also rub off on our children, according to Christy Whitman, a New York Times bestselling author, creator of the Enlightened Kid Program, life coach, transformational leader and CEO and founder of Quantum Success Coaching Academy. She says, "When our competitive needs spill over onto our children, we change the people they are. They start becoming as anxious and as driven as us, thinking they are only as good as their latest accomplishments."
She continues, "They may grow up feeling they have to be perfect to prove themselves worthy of our love. The saddest consequence of our unrelenting need to see them 'win-at-all-costs' is that our children will feel as if they're never good enough. Their focus will always rest on their few failings, not their many accomplishments."
How we can stop the cycle of judging
Dutchevici says, "We need to remind women, especially young women, about compassion and solidarity with each other. Studies show that the more empathy and compassion we have towards others, the less likely we are to judge them. The more we see the 'other' as a subject/individual not as an object to be evaluated, the more we are to understand and empathize with each other."
Whitten advises that we can stop judging one another once we are comfortable with our own lives without worrying about society's expectations. She says, "We can stop judging each other when we stop trying to compete with each other and when we stop comparing ourselves to others. When we are comfortable with our efforts and when we decide to live a life on our terms instead of what we think are 'society's' standards, then we are able to stop judging others."
When you catch yourself judging another woman, think about ways in which you may be similar to this woman, suggests Whitten. She says, "Instead of looking for ways that you would 'do it better than her' or 'how she's making a mistake,' try to find ways that you are both alike. When you feel connected and alike, it's easy to learn from each other and to put those critical and judgmental feelings aside."
Remember that whether you think your children are listening to you or not, they constantly look to you as an example for behavior. You wouldn't want your children to judge others by what they see on the outside, right? It's important not to let your children overhear you speaking negatively about another adult for a superficial reason.