What do we see when we look at our sisters? Do we see strength and courage? Do we see each other as competition? Do we take the time to look below the surface that is presented to the world to see the real person?
I happened to catch a review of the recent Emmy Awards on TV -- standing there in front of all the cameras are the men, handsome and dapper in their tuxes being interviewed about their work and the characters they portray, being judged on their work.
Next up, the women: "Oh, where did you get that dress,? Who designed the jewels you are wearing?" nothing close to a question regarding their performances or their skills.
Of course, this is before the comments about the way the dress and jewels actually look on these poor souls. Does anyone really think that a woman dresses up for a special night out and puts on a frock that she does not feel pretty in? Really?
I am certain that every one of us can remember at least one instance when a "girlfriend" has cut us to the quick. About 15 years ago, I was told by a friend that I needed to shape up, that I was a little too chubby and certainly not stylish enough to be the wife of a rock 'n' roll musician. I was shocked and hurt, and just could not comprehend how anyone could even think about being so hurtful.
It took a while, but I came to realize that I had a choice -- and I chose to stay who I am. I chose to not let anyone else define what I should look like, and to spend time supporting and encouraging my sisters. I am still a little chubby, and I like to think that I have my own style!
Why is it that we feel compelled to tear down our sisters who have worked hard, been blessed with a talent and been lucky enough to earn a great living? Should we not be rejoicing in their success and dreaming, making plans and working toward being happy and successful, too?
What would happen if we, as women, collectively decided that we would support, encourage and tell each other that we are smart, talented and courageous, and that together we can achieve anything? Imagine if we told our daughters this every day: Instead of saying "Don't you look pretty?" we teach them empowerment with questions such as "You are a smart girl - what is your favorite book?"
Some time ago, a teenage girl who had been home-schooled her entire life enrolled in PACE Center for Girls. It very quickly became evident that she had never been taught to read. Her fellow students surrounded her with compassion and understanding, they took turns reading to her from her textbooks, she dictated her schoolwork and they would write it down.
Today, because of her sisters supporting her, helping her and realizing that she was not defined by her ability to read, she has a job and is married with a daughter of her own.
The satisfaction and joy I get from working with women and girls in our community is that I get to see, every single day, what a difference it can make when we nurture and encourage a sense of self. We get to tell them that they are smart, capable women and girls, no matter what circumstances life has thrown at them.
We need to teach our daughters and sisters that our worth is not defined by how much we weigh, or how good we look in a bathing suit. We are far, far more than that -- we are women, we are sisters and together we can do anything.
Amanda Horne, passionate about helping women and girls achieve their full potential, is the community relations coordinator for the Women's Resource Center of Manatee and the board chair at PACE Center for Girls of Manatee. Amanda is married to John Horne (Anna Maria Oyster Bar) and they have one child, Bailey ... the cat! She can be reached at email@example.com
COMING NEXT SUNDAY: Susan Timmins, local business owner, mother and Anna Maria Island resident, takes on the Yoko Ono challenge: "Try to say nothing negative about anybody a) for three days b) for 45 days c) for three months. See what happens to your life."