Everyone has stories about growing up and having lots of friends with whom to ride bikes with and go on camping trips. My childhood wasn’t like that at all, I was bullied about my weight, my acne, my unruly hair. Girls found ways of humiliating me every day. In my all-girls school in Colombia, I would hear things like: “you’ll never get married,” or “men don’t love women who are fat.” I grew up thinking that women didn’t support each other. That a woman being successful or a woman having something that I wanted meant that I couldn’t have it too. In my eyes, women were always in competition.
Towel series by Victoria Gravel
Eventually, my parents realized that I didn’t have a throat problem (I was faking a throat ache every day to stay at home) and let me switch schools. The second school was mixed boys and girls, and it changed my experience immediately. I was still being bullied, and people were still super mean to me. However, it wasn’t as often, and it was way less intense. I went from crying every single day to answering back and even standing up for myself! But although I had started fighting back, there were still a lot of doubts and insecurities in my head.
I studied at uni in Colombia’s capital, Bogotá, and although my experience there was different than in high school, the competition and the insecurities were still present. Every pretty girl I saw made me insecure. In my head, I would think things like: will I ever be as pretty as her? Or every super smart girl I met would make me feel as if I’d never be as smart or as driven as her. I wasn’t catty, and I wasn’t rude, but I was definitely still not 100% myself around other women.
After college, I moved to England and started a creative writing MA, and that was the moment that changed everything. I don’t know what it was, if it was being away from home, travelling, or being older. All the women writers in the program were incredible, beautiful and talented, which of course made me feel incredibly inadequate. But the feeling of inadequacy didn’t last long. These super talented women started telling me how much they liked my writing and cheered me on when I felt insecure about my work. Everything clicked. The insecurity was still there, but it wasn’t as strong. I was able to quiet the voices inside my head little by little and feel like I too was doing great things. In a lot of ways, the hurt and the pain from the bullying disappeared, and it was all thanks to other great women, women whom I admired.
I’ve been living in NYC for four months now, and everything has changed for me. I’m way more secure in who I am and my work and it is all thanks to women who I look up to. Now, every time I see an application for something that I’m interested in, I share it with other women. Every time I’m insecure or doubtful about anything, I share my experience with other women. Every time I see a woman in the subway rocking a crop top or wearing a statement piece of jewelry I love, I let her know. Recently, a woman on the subway said to me: “I hope this is not weird but I love your perfume. You smell amazing.” It was such a nice moment. It’s the little things we do that can plant a seed of positivity and support.
From Cranes in the Sky by Carlota Guerrero
Yes, women have hurt me in the past, and I have experienced cattiness and bullying from other women, but I’ve also experienced women holding my hair when I’m puking on a sidewalk at midnight, women listening to me while I’m talking endlessly about a guy I like or a guy who broke my heart, women who celebrate my successes with me, and women who have been sad with me when things haven’t gone my way. Women who have told me to cut the shit when my pity parties have been too long and have told me to give myself some credit when they see I am not seeing how far I’ve come. Women who have taught me all I know about self-love.
The way I see it, I’ve come so far thanks to the women in my life and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve finally understood that a woman having something that I want means that I should come to her for advice, rather than be letting her happiness bring me down. So let’s keep supporting and helping each other out! Female solidarity is way more than a hashtag or a trend. It’s a way of life.