Shine Together

“When you meet a woman who is intimidatingly witty, stylish, beautiful, and professionally accomplished, befriend her. Surrounding yourself with the best people doesn’t make you look worse by comparison. It makes you better.”

-Ann Friedman on The Shine Theory

I have always had a competitive spirit. My two sisters and older brother are between four and eight years older than I am, while my other brotherIMG_6926s are one and two years older than I am. Since I was closer to my brothers in age, while growing up I was around them more, especially my brother Marco. We played together, went to school together, joked together, cried together, and competed with one another in every aspect of life. He was my only competition as a child, the person who gave me a run for my money. He was my first best friend, and the person who pushed me to be great because he was sooo good at everything!

Because of this, competitiveness became a trait of my personality. I had to be the best at everything, and when I was not, I beat myself up. I cried a little, got back up, and tried again. Told myself that I can do better. Having a competitive nature is not necessarily a bad thing, if you know for what you are competing. For a while, I was in competition with everyone just to compete.  I mean, most people probably did not even know it was a competition. They were living life and I was trying to be the best. I compared my success to the success of others, and when I failed to come out on top, I retreated into my own cycle of self-defeating thoughts.

Not only was competitiveness an attribute of my personality, it was also a feature of friendship. I thought that competing with your girlfriends was normal. And I guess in a lot of instances it is, until you grow up and realize that your girls become your tribe. You have to nurture those relationships as much as you can. Good friends keep you grounded and steadfast. They are supportive and loving, and competition can become toxic to all that greatness.

IMG_6927 I did not get over this competitive phase of my life until I was in college, and I had just met my now best friend, Ashley. Ashley is one of those people who means what she says and ONLY says what she means. She is very observant and has to warm up to you before she proceeds, but when she is warm she is all in. She’s passionate about her career and works hard to achieve her success. Ashley is confident but humble, bold but compassionate. She is powerful and empowering. From the beginning of our friendship, I never wanted to compete with her, I wanted to learn from her.

The most important lessoned I have learned from her is that you do not have to be in competition with others to be your type of great. Ashley and I are both similar in the sense that we don’t stray away from our goals. We see where we want to be and work hard to get there. The thing is, our passion is very similar, but instead of being detrimental to each other’s success, we have been each other’s biggest cheerleaders, editors, advisor, and advocates. We boost each other’s morale and sometimes resume.


I learned so much about friendship through Ash, and fortunately my other friendships have benefited. They are fuller than ever.


I have a solid core of girl friends who are all successful in their own right. They are educators, directors, entrepreneurs, and soon to be doctors. They all have something that they are working towards, and we push each other to be great. I no longer measure my success by the success of my girls, because when they shine, baby, I shine with them. I have realized that I have become more successful when I am not competing because I am directing my attention and energy towards a goal, instead of towards just being better than. I have become more mindful of my success; I now celebrate my achievements instead of allowing self-doubting thoughts to resurface. And I also get to celebrate them.

Some women compete for jobs, men, attention, etc., because they feel they must. It’s kind of like a survival of the fittest type of mindset since women are given the shorter end of the stick. That stick becomes even shorter when considering Black women. I am currently reading Melissa Harris-Perry’s “Sister Citizen” and she describes black women in America as standing in a tilted room trying to figure out which way is up. She explains that this is where the “strong black woman” stereotype comes into play. Black women do everything in their power to make the world seem right no matter how crooked it is. They do it because they need to survive in such as wrong place. They do it because, if they don’t fight for themselves, who will fight for them?


It is so imperative to understand that we are all fit to survive, especially if we uplift each other! We Should keep a circle of women around who are continuously pushing forward regardless of the daily resistance (hate, blatant racism, blatant sexism, macroaggressions, criticism) they encounter. We must keep a circle of women who will continue to build us up when the entire world wants to beat us down. Women who understand our plights. Women who are going to remind us of our light. Remind us that we have paths to follow, dreams to fulfill. Remind us of how bright we sparkle…

so that we always will.

I’m so glad that I have found such a beautiful group of women who build me up and remind me that we are in this together. We shine together.


Sandra Renee







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