One Up, All Down

Over a week ago, USA Today reported that families will spend, on average, $1,078 on prom in 2012. To say I was surprised when I read this is an understatement. Is this the same prom I remember my children going to? One thousand dollars? Their tally accounts for the cost of a prom dress, tux, shoes, manicure, makeup, hair, jewelry, corsage, boutonniere, limousine, dinner, and dance tickets.

So as I’m thinking about how on earth this has happened to the average American kid, I was getting my nails done. And across the way are two little girls, I’m guessing between ages 8 and 11, who are also getting their nails done. I couldn’t help but overhear their conversation. They were talking about a new little boy who had transferred to their school. Rumor has it he’s a pop star who is interested in one of the girls. As soon as the little girl said the boy was interested in her, the other’s face dropped. I watched her try to process this news. The thought, “What am I going to say back to her?! I want that boy to like me!” ran across her face. From there, their conversation escalated into a series of one-upping the other.

Then it clicked. Is this how early it starts? Is this exactly what fuels teenage girls to have $1,000 prom nights? I think it might be. I’m not sure how or why it started, but there is a definite sense of one-upmanship happening amongst women. I see it with women bragging about how incredible their husbands are, saying, “Oh! That’s sweet your husband bought you that bag. Mine got me this diamond necklace!” It starts young and it doesn’t seem to stop.

How can we educate girls when they’re young that one-upping one another will never make anyone feel good at heart? Why not educate our daughters on a true sense of self and character? Let’s show our daughters and even remind ourselves what’s truly important and that we should be lifting one another up! What’s really important are a woman’s values, how she respects herself and others, and how she builds strong relationships with other women in her life. Instilling confidence in a young woman means not comparing her characteristics to anyone else’s and helping her believe and understand that she is unique, and that uniqueness will set her apart from the rest.

When you one-up someone, though, you tell her what she has to say isn’t important. That makes her feel terrible, and on the other hand, you show your insecurities when you try to one up someone else.  On the scale of being good to another woman, trying to one-up is barely a step above name-calling. We undermine one another’s power and make one another look bad in the process. We need to appreciate and celebrate one another’s greatness, even if it makes us envious for a moment. These are feelings we can rise above, and we need to teach young women and girls this, too.

I’m not saying that a teenage girl isn’t allowed to feel gorgeous on her prom night or that a young girl isn’t allowed to feel those first flashes of jealousy. What I do think we can all do, together as a collective sisterhood, is work with each other through these feelings instead of act upon them without thinking. Maybe if we cared less about what others thought of our status, then we’d enjoy more and would be more likely to offer support and compliments. This life should be full of enjoyment and helping all the women in your life feel great, yourself included. We need to stop one-upping because it’s only bringing us down.

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