The Dark Side of Systergy

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I was sick all week, barely functional in fact. I don’t know about you, but when I don’t feel well, and I can’t sleep or even read, I watch TV, hoping to find something that will allow me to forget how lousy I feel.

And so I found myself watching an all-day marathon of America’s Next Top Model – Round 7. I had seen snatches of the show over the past two years, so I was familiar with the format. I'd had the general impression that while most of the girls on the program were attractive, they lacked confidence, and in many cases, education.

Which is why I was surprised by a contestant named Melrose Bickerstaff. Not only was she attractive, she was savvy. Melrose handily won challenges, and to my mind was the clear front-runner in the competition.

But guess what? She didn’t win.

She DIDN’T win.

Here’s my analysis of her failure to win: she lost because of her poor relationships with the other contestants.

Yup – that’s right.

Her relationships. Remember, women are only considered feminine within the context of a relationship or when we are giving something to someone else, like recognition.

Was she that mean and nasty? It would seem that she wasn’t – certainly if she had been they would have aired the footage. (Remember Omarosa?) Mean and nasty makes great television.

Regardless, the other girls didn’t like her. And when the judges (a panel of five – 2 women, 3 men) had to make a final decision about who would win and who would lose, Tyra Banks made the comment, “well the other girls didn’t really like her…”

When I was still working on Wall Street, a Harvard Business School professor came in to lead a day of training for all First Vice presidents throughout the firm. One of the interesting nuggets I gleaned from that meeting was the fact that it takes longer for women to climb the corporate ladder because when a man is up for a promotion, the opinion of his superiors is the only opinion that matters. When a woman is up for promotion, her superiors AND her peers are consulted.


America’s Next Top Model was an instance where the girls liking Melrose was, in my opinion, irrelevant. Especially because it seemed that their dislike was largely due to jealousy. But because we are only considered feminine within the context of relationships, if we don’t have good relationships, well then we’re sunk.

The bad news is that when we don’t feel there’s enough for us, enough bounty, we just trip the prom queen, experiencing the dark side of systergy, and no one wins. The good news is that if we do feel there’s enough for us, this enough-ness spills over into our relationships, and we experience systergy, accomplishing far more than we could have on our own.

Can you think of a recent experience when you encouraged and helped another woman, savoring her success?

How did you feel?

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