What is the Sister Wound?
We live in a culture where women compete against one another. You don't need to look far to witness this. Just turn on the TV, and women gather together to watch a TV show where 30 women compete for the love and attention of one man- The Bachelor. The up-down look women give to one another, silently calculating if the stranger they are looking at is competition in some way.
Simply put, the sister wound is the pain, distrust, or dis-ease many women feel when relating to other women. Jealousy, insecurity, cattiness, comparison, fear— these are ways the sister wound manifests itself in relationships with other women.
The Sister Wound manifests in women living in a patriarchal society who have had to use unhealthy coping mechanisms to survive; they had to choose between following the patriarchy or being outcasted. Unfortunately, these women have not processed that grief and pain and continue passing the Sister Wound on to the next generation.
You see that as early as grade school, and it gets worse in middle school when girls get into puberty- the mean girls and cattiness begin there. So often, the girls that are different, nerdy, heavier or weird get outcasted and are left out.
Here are some of the ways the Sister Wound shows up:
Judgment against other women (shaming others for how they dress, speak, think or represent themselves)
Intentionally excluding and removing a woman from feeling welcome.
Insecurity around and in the company of other women — especially those you are not familiar with
Jealousy/Envy toward other women or your sister
Lack of trust in general with other women
Gossiping/ Backstabbing to discredit other women
Before patriarchy, colonialism, and the rise of media and social media— women depended on other women; there used to be times when we gathered together when we weren't putting each other down. There wasn't a need to undermine one another. Women would come together, cook, eat, and do chores together. Take turns caring for, teaching, and raising their youth as a community rather than as individual mothers.
They create magical healing experiences where they listen to one another and learn from their wisdom. The "it takes a village" mentality wasn't just an option for women — it was a way of life. As a result, women started to become more powerful and more vocal. They began to make changes in their town and communities. It was natural and beautiful, and there were mutual benefits from working together.
Then patriarchy happened. And a woman had two choices — submit to the ways of the "new" world and betray her sisters OR become an "outcast" or "martyr" in the fight against the "new" world. This divide between women was precisely the point of patriarchy. The more divided women became, the less power they had together.
In a patriarchal society where women must compete to succeed, think about the women in high positions; they must be like "one of the boys" to be accepted as a partner, on the board of directors or in the start-up world. Grinding, hassling and working till you drop are all success measures based on the patriarchal world.
How to heal from the Sister Wound?
Become very honest with yourself, and notice the thoughts you are having. If you observe the sister wound in your life - know that it is okay and part of your conditioning. You are human. Acknowledging the hurt is the first step.
In this heavily patriarchal society, it is common for women to place competition over collaboration. However, the most effective way to heal the sister's wound is by lifting each other. All women deserve to be respected and loved with honesty and compassion.
Support your girlfriends in their interests and passions. Share and promote their work through your network. The more we actively and authentically support each other, the more we can break the belief that women are competition.
You can even repeat the affirmation daily, "I value collaboration over competition."
You can start healing today, start by:
Congratulating friends sincerely when they succeed
Attend events with other women and listen to their stories with genuine interest, e.g. a women's circle
When your inner critic is strong, notice if you can alter your perspective, sending yourself loving words instead.
Reclaim your voice, speak up and be heard. Stop playing small.
It takes time to rewire our conditioned mind, so don't get disheartened if it doesn't happen immediately. You can accelerate the process using NLP- neuro-linguistic programming, where we work on your unconscious mind.