Knowing how to love and foster sisterhood is not automatic, even for a feminist like me. Sure, I’ll shout slogans from the rooftops, and be angry about the right things online, but when it comes to supporting women in everyday life, I sometimes catch my sneaky subconscious turn saboteur, reverting to habits that undermine female empowerment.

Even the most well-meaning of us can unknowingly harm ourselves and other women by engaging in certain behaviours, causing resentment and division that ultimately keeps us all small.

Though we don’t often speak of it, it can be difficult at any age to be surrounded by a female dominated environment. There is the gossip, the dramas, the back stabbing, the game playing and the manipulation. You feel like you are in a girl’s high school playground.  Judged and looked at from top to bottom.

When you belong to an established female support network, this behaviour can easily creep in and before you know it, your network begins to critic others and toxicity sets in. The whole raison d’être of a network is to be inclusive and to grow, yet, the female intuition seems to breed mistrust and insecurity. Let’s face it, “mean girls” isn’t some imagery theme made up for Hollywood.

Sometimes, we are so happy to feel a sense of belonging with other women that a newcomer feels threatening. So instead of growing and expanding our fellowship, we constrict and form a clique, masking our insecurity with a brittle belief that we’re an exclusively special tribe. All this does is reinforce the idea that our bonds are fragile and other women aren’t to be trusted. In the end we just rob ourselves of being bigger people and forming stronger connections with even more women. There comes a point in life where in order to experience more joy, we have to share it with others.

I’m convinced that women who actually go after their dreams and reach their goals are those who surround themselves with the right crowd. And don’t just take my word for it, there’s enough evidence that surrounding yourself with the right people is the fastest way to success.

Women’s networks are not just about inspiration and learning from each other, a good tribe of like-minded people will boost your mood, help you believe in your dream and give perspective to the decisions and challenges ahead. It is the collective energy of many that often defines whether you are going to give up on your project or carry on and persevere. If you surround yourself with ‘nay sayers’ (and believe what they say), the negativity is likely to wear you down sooner than you think.

Competition is good, collaboration is better. Naturally, we all have a different definition of success, and I hope you do too. There’s no point chasing someone else’s dream!

It’s important to make an informed and independent decision on what kind of network is right for you. Moreover, you should consider carefully why you want to join a women’s network and what is right for you. Do you want to expand your network, gain more business knowledge or build up your success mindset?

We live in a world where there are so many hurdles for women, our network shouldn’t be one of them. Even though, there are women who pit against other women it is very inspiring to see some other women who support and lift women up. Blowing out someone else’s candle doesn’t make yours shine any brighter. Strong women stand together when things are rough, hold each other up when they need support and laugh together when there’s no reason to.

Be that woman!