If you were on Twitter last Sunday you know that Part I of this series was very popular, and we all watched Oprah and Iyanla Vanzant on Life Class discuss the “Bad Things Women Do To Each Other." I asked three well-known sisters, who are experts in their respective fields, what it takes to be a truly successful woman who manages her relationships well. According to them you must have three things in order:
1. Be able to manage you and your emotional needs and wants very well
2. Have a flexible working definition of what it means to be successful
3. Be a focused, purpose driven-woman on a mission not only to be successful, but also to help other women become successful and achieve their dreams
I sat down with best-selling relationship and self-help author Michelle McKinney Hammond, long-time ESSENCE magazine Beauty and Cover Director (now editor-at-large) and author Mikki Taylor, and Spiritual/Personal Life Coach Cathy Moffitt, who founded Heartfelt International Ministries and hails from the Potter’s House in Dallas. I asked each woman to respond to two key questions that would help us as career women, wives, mothers, sisters, aunts and friends learn how to better love, support and uplift one another.
I asked each woman to define first what it means to be “successful,” and second, to discuss why it is that women are so hard on other women and what we can do about it to change the game.
Here is what they shared:
Mikki Taylor: Success is walking steadfast in your purpose. We must not define success in our possessions or in what title we bear. We have to watch mapping out our success from a minefield perspective: Meaning we lose sight of the greatness that lies within us. This crippling attitude shows up in common circumstances — if we lose our job, we lose our identity, not recognizing that our gifts go with us wherever we go. If we lose our man, we feel unworthy of being loved again, when nothing could be further from the truth. Success comes from within and it is the truth that you stand firm in. Successful women come full and thus they are comfortable in their skin, they like the woman they see in their mirror and they stride in their purpose not in their lack. If I am not “full” when I come to the sister table, I can never like you, support you, or love you because I am simply consumed with “me” and what I lack.
Michelle McKinney Hammond: The Bible makes a clear demarcation between riches and wealth. Wealth is a life well lived: Meaning our relationships are rich, balanced and healthy. That is success, ladies. We need to understand that success is seasonal; it can be here one day good and gone the next. True wealth is in people, not things. It is in yourself, in your value and in your living. Successful women are purpose-driven women who are not deterred by distractions in relationships. They are focused on positivity. Every woman who is successful is focused and they follow through. They have a goal in mind and every decision they make is about that goal.
Cathy Moffitt: Success means that you grasp that your service to others is more important than self elevation. I align my success with the success of other women. Success also depends on what season you are in your life: Your 20's and 30's often focus on material success and surface things, whereas in your 40's and 50's you learn how to handle your heart, which leads you to seek direction from God. That leading helps you to avoid what is toxic and bad for you. We all have a measure of success or lack thereof—it’s all in how we RESPOND to a situation that determines how we come out of it. We have to be accountable for our behavior toward self and others. We become haters when we aren't happy with self. Success is all about how you love you first.
Finally I asked them why we treat one another so badly, and what we can do about it:
Michelle McKinney Hammond: We treat each other badly for three reasons: Familiarity, fear and a spirit of entitlement. “You are just like me so how dare you be better than me.” We compare each other, and, as we know, comparison is a cesspool you can never get out of. We must take stock of what makes us unique. God has countless opportunities for all of us, not just some of us. Jostling for position and men is what keeps us at odds as sisters. We operate out of lack. We compete with a spirit of entitlement that gets us in trouble because we feel “you owe me something” because of what I have been through. Then we despise other women when we don't get what we expect. We have to start owning our stuff and being responsible for what we have as much as what we don't have.
Cathy Moffitt: Self-hatred is why we hurt one another. We have a complex about who we are. How we define happiness has been misconstrued. We lack self-control. If you cannot manage your own emotions, you cannot manage conflict. The way out is through mutual respect and trust. It has to be defined. There has to be agreement, and it needs to be verbalized by the two people in the relationship (work-related or friendship). A boundary has to be set so that there can be a fruitful relationship. This will ensure that both parties know their role and responsibility. It allows you to maintain a good sense of relationship even though it changes over the course of time. You redefine the relationship as a team. It works. Trust me. I have done it and so can you.
Mikki Taylor: We struggle with sister relationships and conflict management because we don't see ourselves as winners, but as competitors. When you see yourself as a competitor you operate with a "by any means necessary” approach versus one of "game on!" You will destroy others so you can win. But winners don't have to switch their strategy and play dirty because there are other women who do. It all comes back to the subject of self-esteem and how well you recognize your value. See everyone as a winner as you see yourself as one. We then treat people accordingly. Sisters, never act beneath your truth! Love you and everything else will flow.
Next week, in the final part of this series, I sit down with five amazing women in their 30's and 40's who dropped some amazing nuggets of wisdom on how they manage their relationships with other women successfully and with compassion. We spent three hours having a sister circle via teleconference about “sisterhood” and what we need to do to reconnect, restore and renew the bonds of what it means to truly be your “sister’s keeper!" You do not want to miss this final part.
Sophia A. Nelson is a regular contributor to Essence.com. She is author of the soon to be re-released & updated trade paperback book, Black Woman Redefined: Dispelling Myths and Discovering Fulfillment in the Age of Michelle Obama. Nov 1, 2012. Follow her on Twitter.