My whole life, I’ve frequently had these five words said to me: “You’re not like other girls.”
In every situation, this phrase was always used intentionally as a form of a twisted compliment, not ever meant to harm me but rather to build my confidence. Whether it be to compliment my artistic talents or interest in academia, I’ve had both men and women tell me this, smiling, without thinking about the actual impact of these words.
I know that society wants us to believe that this comment is a good thing; something we should be flattered to hear. Maybe it’s even a vow of not conforming to societal expectations. And it’s true, no one should ever become someone they’re not.
But these five words have always bothered me. And now, I finally understand why.
“You’re not like other girls” is a misogynistic comment in the form of a sweet lie. I’ve been trained all my life to believe that it was a good thing. That I was different from the other billions of women on this earth. And maybe I am.
But so are they.
You see, every single woman is unique, powerful, and beautiful in her own way. There is no recipe for a “perfect” woman. Each person who identifies as a woman comes from a different background, a different culture, and each woman has something incredible and wonderful to offer to the world.
I know that these words are supposed to make me feel like in some way, I’m better than other women, that I’m worth more than the majority of those who identify as female.
But what’s wrong with other girls?
The reality is that this compliment is actually an insult.
Most people don’t mean it to be, but think about it.
All of the women I’ve ever known have been nothing but breath-taking. These women are relentless in their power; have been generous in sharing their gifts of love and grace with me. I’ve crossed oceans and climbed mountains with such an empowering support system of diverse women by my side.
Comparison between women allows for us to brandish the swords of self-loathing. But in actuality, it is not a competition between me and other women. At the end of the day, the only competition I should be engaged in is between who I once was and who I can become.
Competition between women is one of society’s tricks; a trap to lure us into a feeling of comfort and validation, only to pit us against each other, taking away from our energy and well-being.
I think that this is where this false compliment originated from. “You’re not like other girls” is designed to keep women feeling insecure in a patriarchal system.
But standing out does not have to mean putting other women down. If we as women can focus on building each other up rather than tearing each other down for our differences, then the world would be a much brighter place.
The first step we can take is getting rid of comparative vocabulary and choosing to examine our inner misogynistic ideas. Being a feminist means believing in equality and equity, but no one is perfect. Sometimes, we have to work to unlearn traditional ideas that we inherit from society.
And we can begin with this one.
At the end of the day, I want to be so full of confidence and self-love that I can know my individual worth. All while also appreciating other women for being just who they are, too.