Written by Symone Shinton + Edited by Chelsea DuDeVoire
We all know the girl.
For me, we met during high school. She rolled out of bed looking like a supermodel each morning while all of us were wearing braces, applying ten times too much black eyeliner, and collectively hating every inch of our bodies. Our painstaking efforts to achieve beauty were measured against her effortless charm. Naturally, she was also funny, outgoing, and even nice to us lesser folk. In the social dynamics of high school, she had succeeded - so we hated her for it.
That knee-jerk reaction to the “success" of other women doesn’t end in high school. It is rampant in our professional lives and long into adulthood. It's the reason why some of the most successful women I've met during my time in law school are also simultaneously the most disliked. It's the reason why there is an entire set of social guidelines for how to discuss your success, if at all, without ostracizing your colleagues. It's the reason we've all had at least one conversation in our lives that ended with, “ya know, I used to think you were such a b**** before I met you…”
In a world that still overwhelmingly feels like it belongs to men, we are not wrong to fear that only some of us can make it. But we can all win—if we choose to create systems of mutual support, rather than constantly comparing, competing, and cutting each other down. Confident women inspire confident women. Some call it Shine Theory. We shine more when surrounded by like-minded, successful women than we do in isolation. And so I urge you: do not be complacent with your knee-jerk reaction of jealousy. Work actively to replace it with authentic joy.
When your female colleague succeeds, there is only one appropriate reaction: putting your hands together to clap — and meaning it. Remember that it’s okay to clap for yourself, too. Being proud of yourself is not mutually exclusive with cheering for others.
And when your female colleagues fail to do the same? Forgive them for it. Lift them up anyway.
After my first year of law school, I remember identifying with the quote, “pay close attention to people who do not clap for you when you win.” Refusing to extend a hand to the women who do not support me does nothing positive for any of us. In forgiving those that misunderstand my own personal desire to achieve as an affront on their own value, I shine brighter. In scrutinizing my own actions and holding myself accountable for causing any misunderstandings, I shine brighter still.
When we shine, we succeed. And we can all succeed, together.
Symone Shinton is a third-year student at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law and will receive her JD in May of 2017. She graduated summa cum laude with her B.S. in International Affairs from Florida State University in 2014. After law school, Symone will begin her career as a litigator at one of the nation's largest law firms. In her spare time, she enjoys taking and posting way too many pictures of her dog, listening to music on the treadmill, and connecting with friends over precisely one drink too many.