You know the feeling: you’re scrolling through your social feed when you see a friend or colleague’s announcement. She landed a huge promotion, got accepted into your dream college or started her own business.
You’re thrilled for her, but you can’t shake something else—an ugly tinge of resentment or jealousy. Don’t worry, you’re not alone, and you’re not a monster. This feeling is, in part, a result of the long-held belief that women are competing for limited space at the table. Whether that figurative table is a boardroom, a spot at a top college or a position in elected office, women often believe that there’s only space for some of us, and her success ultimately means your loss.
The reality is, success is not a limited resource. The more we uplift and celebrate other women, the more we’ll feel uplifted and celebrated in return.
Ann Friedman and Aminatou Sow, who are credited with developing Shine Theory, say it’s simple: “when you meet a woman who is intimidatingly witty, stylish, beautiful, and professionally accomplished, befriend her. Surrounding yourself with the best people doesn’t make you look worse by comparison. It makes you better.”
Boom: what might have been the vague idea of women helping women in the past now has a name. And it’s thriving, especially in U.S. politics. Jenn Addison of She Should Run, a non-partisan organization promoting equal representation of women in political office, says the group practices shine theory: “it’s more beneficial to support other women than to not. Once you rally behind and support other women and surround yourself with the best people, it will lift you up as well.”
She Should Run focuses on elevating and celebrating the stories of the women running for elected office across the country, at every level of government. Their Incubator Spotlight showcases the personal stories of the women currently participating in the organization’s Incubator Program, an online training tool that develops leadership skills. Learning how each woman describes her path to leadership is nothing short of inspiring.
Addison, who runs the organization’s social channels, says the stories that profile these women are the most popular. “Folks don’t only want to hear the stories, but they’re excited! They say ‘Wow, that’s amazing she’s running. Maybe I can do it too.’ So there’s a real trickle-down benefit to elevating women’s stories.”
Addison herself has experienced the benefits of Shine Theory. She was encouraged to apply for her current position, digital and creative manager at She Should Run, by a former colleague who praised her accomplishments and said she thought she’d be great for the role. Addison says, “sometimes you need a little push to make you realize you’re capable of going for something you thought was out of reach.”
Shine theory isn’t limited to the women of She Should Run. During President Obama’s time at the White House, female staffers discovered that teaming up with, rather than competing with, their female colleagues was beneficial for everyone. They adopted a strategy called Amplification: when a woman made a key point, her female colleagues would repeat it, giving credit to the woman who originally said it. This forced recognition for women’s ideas, which they found were often being claimed by men as their own.
As Addison says, this strategy of amplifying and supporting women’s voices ultimately benefits all women. “One voice turns into many, many louder, bigger voices. And it allows us to take up space, which is long overdue.”
So the next time you feel that pang of jealousy when a friend or colleague accomplishes something, know that it’s natural. But once you’ve taken a deep breath, try reframing her success as a win for all women, yourself included. Celebrate her, lift her up. And when it’s your turn to be celebrated, you’ll see the favor returned.
Read more about She Should Run’s goal of getting 250,000 women running for elected office by 2030. Know an inspiring woman? Ask her to run for office!