By Sumayya Tobah, Editor
I was twelve years old when I learned what was arguably the most important lesson of my young adult life.
At that age, I had three very close friends. When you’re twelve, you’re not just friends, you’re sisters. There is no time period in my life that I look back at as romantically as I do when I think about that age. We were infinite.
I remember confiding in one of my sisters about something I had wanted at the time — a role in the play, getting an article published, I can’t quite remember. What mattered was that she wanted the same thing. But instead of undermining me, making me feel small, or ultimately tearing me down, she looked me in the eye and asked me two questions:
“Is this what you want?”
“Will it make you happy?”
When I confirmed both with all the conviction a twelve year old can muster, she said, “Then it doesn’t matter what I want. I support you.”
And that was that. It didn’t matter that we were both going after the same thing, she had my back. For the record, I am still extremely close with the friends I made at that age. When a friendship is built with unconditional love and without judgement, it thrives and survives.
Ladies. This world is going to tear us down. It is going to tear us down and tear us apart.
We are taught to compete, and if you’ve studied your Beyonce and Adiche as well as I have, you know the lines by heart. We are taught to compete for boys, looks and success. Who has the best job or makes the most money. And it doesn’t stop once you get married or have kids: who has the biggest engagement ring, who’s husband makes the most money, who’s kid is the cutest or has the best grades. God forbid you get frustrated as a mother. God forbid you show signs of any kind of failure. We are distrustful of each other, unable to show any kind of real vulnerability as we perfect and polish our perfect social media personas.
We see it all around us. It’s Taylor versus Kim. It’s Angelina versus Jen. Can you think of two male celebrities that have been pitted against each other in such a vicious way? No, but Beyonce and “Becky with the good hair” are still getting those clicks.
And I can’t help but feel that with all the elements of the universe teaching us that we’re not meant to support one another, the ultimate act of rebellion is unconditional love and support.
I was never a competitive person. I don’t fight for attention, I’m not thirsty to be first and I’m secure enough to know when a moment isn’t about me. I spend time with those who love, support and don’t push me to be something I’m not. And because of this, many women don’t believe I’m genuine. They’re always waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Here it is, ladies. Here’s the secret.
It took me a long time to learn this, and sometimes I have to remind myself; my sisters, I am not in competition with you. I’m not here to beat you, or step on you to succeed. Your successes are mine. Your failures are mine. If I can do something to make your life a touch easier, I will. And if someone is stopping you from fulfilling your full potential, I will do what I can to help you reach your goals.
Here are the only things that matter: Are you happy? Is this what you want?
I am the result of so many strong women. If you’ve read my earlier posts, you already know I have an embarrassing amount of love for my mother. But the line of strong women only ends there. I am very aware of the lineage of warrior women who fought to get me where I am today.
Even more impressive perhaps is the tribe of women who shaped me outside the home. The teachers, the friends, classmates and mentors who showed me that two women can want the same things and still support one another.
We have to stop buying into the idea that we’re here to compete with each other. One woman’s successes does not make me a failure.
This is a friendly reminder: I am on your team.
Follow Sumayya on Instagram and Twitter @thisissumayya