When we were kids I asked my sister a question - "Who do you think is prettier, you or me?" Without even batting an eye, she said, "me!" I was floored. Did she really just say that to me? How dare she have that level of confidence and not lie to my face! This same conversation replayed itself a few times throughout our childhood. As a kid, but also as the older sister, I thought for sure, she would mature and change her answer, but nope!... to this day her answer remains the same... as it should.
Here are my thoughts on this as an adult. This immature conversation between two young girls actually runs so much deeper and reveals one of our oldest problems, but it also reveals the solution. I had unfairly but completely expected my sister to be polite. Little did I know that freaking Snow White was going to show up in my mirror when I asked "Who's the fairest of them all?"
Girls are taught from a very young age that there's only so much room for us and therefore we must compete to be seen. There will only be so many of us tolerated on a stage, in a boardroom, in politics... the list goes on. We label the "pretty one," the "funny one," the "smart one." As the curly-haired girl that hit 5'10" by the 8th grade, I assumed I would have to be the "funny one" and clearly my sister had claimed the role of the "pretty one."
My sister did not subscribe to this mentality and I am so grateful for that. The older we got, the more she began to elaborate on her answer - although, the bottom line remained the same. She told me, "Every girl should think that she is the prettiest." Ok! That little 10-year-old dropped some serious knowledge on me! She was in a place that took me most of my teens to get to. Every girl does deserve to believe that she is the prettiest.
This belief that one pretty girl or one smart girl cancels out the others is so unhealthy. We grew up hearing and continue to say things like "girls are mean," and "mean girls are everywhere." Maybe if we brought our girls up to believe that there was plenty of room for all of us and that the success of one does not equal the failure of another, we wouldn't feel compelled to compete and be "mean." Maybe we would celebrate one another and save a seat for each other at the lunch table, or in the boardroom, and beyond.
My little sister taught me an early lesson in confidence that I carry with me to this day. It's why I pay compliments to other women and young girls - because we all deserve to feel seen and confident. It's why I raise my daughter to celebrate her height, her intelligence, and anything else about herself that she feels like celebrating. When we feel good about ourselves we don't waste time looking to others for validation.
While I don't sit around thinking about how pretty I am (shocking, I know), I do feel confident enough to not look so much to others for validation. It's still a work in progress but luckily, I have the advice of my smart, kind, and prettiest sister to look back on when I need it.