Women vs. Women, and a Little Thing Called “Self-Respect”

Health & Wellness


To free us from the expectations of others, to give us back to ourselves – there lies the great, singular power of self-respect. – Joan Didion

When I tell people I spent four years living with 60 other women in a sorority house, I get a mixed bag of reactions. Almost everyone has an opinion about this 100 year-old institution, and we’ve all witnessed or heard the horror stories about how bitchy, back-stabbing, and shallow these women can be.

Sure, plenty of those stories and experiences are true. And maybe my incredibly positive experience was an anomaly. But I’m not writing this blog post to talk about the pros and cons of joining the greek system. I want to talk about how we treat each other as women.

At a young age, our mother instilled in us social graces that I’ve come swear by. She explained that it’s OK to smile at a stranger or an acquaintance, even if they don’t smile back. That picking up the phone to tell someone you were thinking about them can turn a bad day into a better one. To do your best to be nice to because everyone is battling something. That hatred can be killed with grace and kindness. And most importantly, hurtful and passive aggressive remarks made towards you are really a reflection of how someone feels about themselves.

For many reasons (most of which I find to be ludicrous), we women are our own worst critics. We hold each other to unreasonable standards, and sometimes get joy out of seeing each other fall. We can be petty, insensitive, mean, and fake. We gossip, then sling insincere “hellos!” and “I’m so happy for you!”. We complain about these women, but rarely walk away from the toxic friendship, letting it stew into a pot of simmering hate. What’s worse is we cast blame on those who make us feel less about ourselves, when in reality, we really should be looking inward and assessing why we’re so critical of the way someone else lives. It’s something that truly saddens me, and as I’ve grown older, I’ve learned to tolerate this behavior from acquaintances (see: be nice to others), but never from friends. And they’ve held me to the same standard.

I’m a huge proponent of female friendships, and I’m incredibly blessed to have a handful of very strong female friends in my life. Without them, I don’t know if I would be here today. These friendships are conditional; they’re different from the love you give your family or your partner. They’re choices you make together; to be a shoulder to cry on, to always have each others back (even if one of you was in the wrong), to support the decisions we make in our lives, even if they’re different than the ones we’d make for ourselves. Female friendships are a place we can share experiences only women go through, and ask for feedback. They’re proven to critical in the success of life-long partnerships. They’re one of the best experiences you can have in a lifetime. And I can’t help but feel many of us never achieve this type of friendship because we’re too busy comparing our lives to each other.

The most valuable thing I learned from living with 60 other women is how to respect and learn from women who challenge you. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t envied a friend who has a killer figure, or a friend who landed their dream job. There are bloggers out there that do things I WISH I could do! But instead of stewing with envy or giving backhanded compliments, I remember that we all have different strengths. Hers are just different than mine. And when we stop comparing ourselves to one another, we make room to support each other in our differences, and eventually we gain insight and valuable lessons that better ourselves. It’s a win-win, and all it takes is having a little respect for yourself and your strengths.

The captain of a team will select players to make a versatile and well-rounded line up. Surrounding yourself with people who have different strengths will only make you a better person.

So ladies, let’s put away those backhanded compliments and judging eyes. Let’s support our successes, and work towards empowerment and self-respect. There are amazing things we’re all capable of achieving.

* Note: Thank you to all of the women in my life who have taught me about self-respect and empowerment. I’m your rock, and you are mine. Beautiful things are around every corner.

BY Kate Arends - January 24, 2014

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add a comment

  1. annie z. | under the oaks

    January 24th, 2014 at 10:13 am

    This is awesome. I’m so glad you’re talking about this topic and sharing your thoughts. I try reminding myself this as much as possible. There are so many inspiring women to learn from that it would be a shame to let pride stand in the way. Thanks!

  2. Valerie | Lily on Fillmore

    January 24th, 2014 at 10:37 am

    thank you for this!

  3. Hilary

    January 24th, 2014 at 11:15 am

    YES! I, too, lived in a sorority house and count my greek sisters among the most supportive, smart and kind people I know. It was the most empowering four years a girl could ask for, and the foundation for a lifetime of a self-respect as an adult.

    Also – thanks for being brave enough to post this. Sometimes people shy away from anything that even smells like that most deadly of F-words – feminism! – and this really is the heart of what feminism is all about: love, respect, and non-judgment for all.

    Thanks, Kate!

  4. Madeline

    January 24th, 2014 at 11:38 am

    This is rad, Kate!

  5. People that do things. | The American EditThe American Edit

    January 24th, 2014 at 12:34 pm

    […] Women vs. Women – A little thing called Self Respect […]

  6. Mel

    January 24th, 2014 at 1:11 pm

    Truth on every level. “I’m your rock and you are mine.” xx

  7. yvonne

    January 24th, 2014 at 1:36 pm

    YES! we all have different strengths. i’m always scheming how all of my favorite girlfriends can get together and collaborate using each of our unique skills. beautiful message, kate.

  8. Nichole

    January 24th, 2014 at 1:48 pm

    SUCH a great post. I too lived in a sorority house in college, and had a very positive experience. I hate the negative stigma that is attached to being part of a sorority. Women should support each other rather tearing each other down.

  9. Megan @ Pink O'Clock

    January 24th, 2014 at 2:41 pm

    Awesome message, and so well said.I couldn’t agree with you more. Bookmarking and sharing, and I know I’ll reread often. Thanks for this, Kate. xo

  10. Regan

    January 24th, 2014 at 3:22 pm

    Loved reading this! Thanks for the reminder.

  11. Jade Sheldon-Burnsed

    January 24th, 2014 at 5:20 pm

    Well said. I was never in a sorority. When it was time to pick colleges, my mom was very, very ill and I decided it was best that I live at home to help care for her and go to school somewhere close. It was the best thing to do at the time, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t mind missing out on the real college experience of moving out and bonding with others who are experiencing the very same changes all at once. I think the friends you choose to surround yourself with is so important and if they make you happy, make you think, and love you then that is all that matters.

  12. Ashley

    January 24th, 2014 at 5:56 pm

    Stellar insight Kate. Hoping I’ll get to see you in person again sometime but until our paths cross again-always love reading!

  13. Jenny

    January 24th, 2014 at 7:07 pm

    Wonderful. Thanks for sharing, Kate! Friendship rooted in love and acceptance without jealousy and comparison is one of the most beautiful things we can experience as women! I loved your insights here. 🙂

  14. Camille E. Trummer

    January 25th, 2014 at 7:14 pm

    “What’s worse is we cast blame on those who make us feel less about ourselves, when in reality, we really should be looking inward and assessing why we’re so critical of the way someone else lives. It’s something that truly saddens me, and as I’ve grown older, I’ve learned to tolerate this behavior from acquaintances (see: be nice to others), but never from friends. And they’ve held me to the same standard.”

    YES. This post is spot on, Kate! Thanks for sharing.

  15. Melissa

    January 25th, 2014 at 9:08 pm

    Goodness this is good stuff.

  16. Kate

    January 27th, 2014 at 3:24 am

    That’s been an awesome start to my Mondat Thanks Kate!

    Kate x

  17. Brooke

    January 27th, 2014 at 4:50 pm

    Oh my gosh, you are singing my song for real. I agree 100% with this post. Female friendships are VITAL to us gals. We need each other and it is so silly to tear each other down…it helps no one! So tired of hearing girls say that guys are much less drama so they stick with them…it’s just that we need to learn how to treat each other, that’s all. Preach, sista!

  18. Lucy

    January 27th, 2014 at 11:43 pm

    I love this. Thanks for sharing, Kate. I feel incredibly fortunate for all the female love and support in my life, and I believe it takes practice everyday to be as kind and accepting of ourselves as we are to the women we care about.

  19. tish from luv and kiwi

    January 28th, 2014 at 2:27 pm

    YES! YES! YES! Clapping so hard it hurts 🙂

  20. jamie levine

    January 28th, 2014 at 11:29 pm

    Amen, sista! I’m always wary of women who claim they just get along better with men. Red flag right there.

  21. Kasey

    January 29th, 2014 at 11:32 am

    Great post, Kate. I couldn’t agree with you more – I’ve had my fair share of jealous/unsupportive female friends, but most of my girls have been with me through thick and thin. This is a great reminder to value those ladies, and to be a little more empathetic in all life situations…

  22. Games and the quest for Solitude | .Steffany.

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  27. Beth

    February 1st, 2014 at 9:56 am

    This post was exactly what I needed today. I’ve felt this type of backlash a lot this past week and it really got to me. Instead of passing judgement, we should be celebrating the accomplishments of our friends and fellow women!

  28. Ursula

    February 5th, 2014 at 12:20 pm

    I love what your mother taught you. So inspiring. You’re really lucky to have had such an incredible role model. I’d like to second everything you said – both about acquaintances & friends. Nicely put.

  29. Kate

    February 6th, 2014 at 12:26 pm

    Thanks Ursula. It took me years to appreciate it, and I’m so thankful for it as an adult. <3

  30. Oh So Pretty: Happy Weekend

    February 7th, 2014 at 8:02 am

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  32. Kara @ Bostonista

    February 8th, 2014 at 1:34 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing these thoughts, Kate! I’m guilty of being hard on other women and allowing negativity to cloud my judgement. It’s true that strong female friendships are hard work and also conditional- I’ve learned to appreciate the few close girlfriends I have in ways I probably wasn’t capable of even just a few years ago. Having true respect for your friends and their choices means being supportive and honest and kind. All at once. Without judgement!


  33. Sam

    February 9th, 2014 at 12:16 am

    This is lovely. I like what you said about the superficial ‘hellos’ and ‘i’m happy for you’ when really we bitch and whinge about the very toxic friendships that we refuse to walk away from. I have started to walk away from toxic friendships and it amazing how it helps you grow as a person. And not to mention, the extra time and energy you have for the friends that really matter. I think if you feel the need to judge and talk negatively about someone, you probably should walk away from them – your relationship isn’t a good one to begin with.

  34. katie

    February 10th, 2014 at 1:15 pm


    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. We’re so quick to cut other women down, in hopes that we’ll feel better… when the opposite is true. Thanks so much for being honest + challenging us as women!

  35. Caroline

    February 10th, 2014 at 6:36 pm

    Yes, thank you- I really, really needed this.

  36. Weekend Reading | The Garden Apt.

    February 15th, 2014 at 5:04 am

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  37. Valerie

    February 15th, 2014 at 9:46 am

    Friendship begins with a word of kindness. I find women think that comlimenting or praising someone sincerely takes the attention away from them. But–kind words work two-fold: they make the receiver feel happy and the giver feel the warmth that comes from generosity.

    Great post, Kate. And congratulations on the Target collaboration. One of many doors that will continue to open for you!


    May 10th, 2015 at 4:00 pm

    We love this. Thanks for sharing.

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