By: Sarah Mahdy

“Every woman’s success should be an inspiration to another, we’re strongest when we cheer each other on.” – Serena Williams

I called her mother, “mom.” I had a toothbrush, clothes and my own bed at her house. I was counted in all family vacations. People would call us if they couldn’t get a hold of the other one because they knew we would be together. If I ever went out with friends and she wasn’t with me, they would ask what was going on and why we weren’t together. I had found my best friend and there was no doubt in my mind we would be lifelong friends. I knew we would be at each other’s weddings, child births, and every milestone in between. We were inseparable. 

But then the texts became less. I told myself that we were best friends and I just needed to communicate directly. I did. Things got better fleetingly. Then it would happen again. Each time I felt I was forcing her to maintain the friendship but I comforted myself by believing that this was all normal and it was a time and would pass. It did not pass. Things that I would normally let go were all of a sudden huge red flags. I tried as hard as I could to maneuver around them because I was terrified of what I would find if I faced them head on. At one point though, the red flags became so large that it was draining me physically, emotionally and mentally to try to avoid them. That is when I realized that I was holding onto something with everything I had, for someone who wasn’t even willing to communicate with me.

When I accepted that fact, everything else became clear. All the times I would feel something was off in the way I was treated, I passed it off as us friends being too close. When my beliefs were met with criticism, I passed it off as any friendship needed compromise. When I was consistently exhausted from maintaining two personalities, I told myself that any friendship needs to accommodate for the other person’s likes and dislikes. When my accomplishments were met with artificial sentiments of happiness and even criticism, I refused to see it; I told myself that she was happy for me but she was just preoccupied. I had created a friendship in my mind and heart that I so desperately wanted, that I allowed myself to be drained of who I truly was to fulfil the friendship she wanted. 

Eventually, I stopped being the only one trying. The thing is when you have a relationship when one person is doing all of the giving and the other person is doing all of the receiving, it comes to the point where there is nothing left to give. At that point, the receiver either switches roles and gives back or they walk away to another source of giving. She walked away. It hurt and I didn’t understand how something that I thought to be unbreakable was all of a sudden nonexistent, and in it’s place was a feeling of betrayal. Betrayal of what we were and what we were going to be. 

With time though, I saw less of the negatives of the situations and began to reflect on the lessons. When I met my current best friend, I was extremely cautious. I refused to let her in. I wanted to keep it superficial. I didn’t want to have expectations. But when we were invited to an outing and I said I wasn’t comfortable going, she said to me, “hmm I didn’t even think of that. I don’t know if I completely agree but here is how I see it,” and we talked about it. All the while I was waiting for the other shoe to drop, and her to belittle my beliefs. But it didn’t. We talked for a long time. Everytime I pulled back and hesitated, she didn’t miss a beat. She kept talking and gave me space when I needed it. As our friendship grew, I realized how different it was to have someone who supported me and truly and sincerely wanted the best for me. Instead of being exhausted all the time, I was energized, social and overall content. It was clear, having nothing was better than having negativity and letting go of someone toxic, was better than holding onto them just to have someone. 

Women often stay in relationships that are toxic because it is easier to stay in what you know than to step out of your safe comfort zone and move forward. It got me thinking about the lasting difference in my best friend relationship, that was built on a genuine care for each other truly made in my life. It made me reflect on how many times this happens to women, not only in friendships, but with work, family, and their communities. 

The difference we as women can make by uplifting and supporting each other is limitless. When we step up for empathy, compassion and inclusion, it proves more positively effective than when we attempt to step over each other to get to the top. When we choose to help one another, we are creating lasting bonds to form a chain of solidarity. 

It is understandable that since women have to work against continuous obstacles, they are consistently in the mindset of having to push back just to have a seat at the table. I’ve seen family members have to work twice as hard because their coworkers hoard information to put themselves ahead. I have seen friends one up each other for a better grade. We are in a society where we feel we cannot afford to show empathy, compassion and support for one another because we will be seen as weak, and therefore don’t have what it takes to make it. But what if the norm became lending a helping hand to create an equitable playing field instead of tripping each other just to make it to the field? If we as women showed up for each other, we wouldn’t feel the need to stay in toxic relationships. We wouldn’t feel the need to push each other off the last chair at the table, but instead would bring two chairs and force room to be made. 

The empowerment of women starts with you. 

5 Ways You Can Empower The Women Around You

  1. Know your worth and lead by example
    • Don’t stay in toxic relationships; reach out to your support system and lead by showing how far a helping hand can go 
  2. Share your appreciation and love for the women in your life 
    • Compliment a coworker, share your wealth of knowledge, support mental health
  3. Educate yourself on what an equitable environment means. 
    • Don’t settle for less. And be a champion for other women when you can.
  4. Advocate against injustice. 
    • Stand up for women’s rights. Be part of the process. 
  5. Support and donate to women’s empowerment organizations
    • Find Your Power is launching a new Womxn Rising Fundraising Campaign next week, March 8th!

Women’s empowerment is not an individual effort, it takes a community. Start by uplifting yourself and the women around you. Share this post with the women in your life, and ask them to pay it forward.  

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