“What is one thing you wish you knew about guys?” my friend asked me while spending the afternoon together writing and reading. Feeling uninspired to write, I had just finished the short story The Snows of Kilimanjaro by Ernest Hemingway, his reading recommendation for the day, which prompted my response to the question.

“I wonder if they all lie in the same way the main character told comfortable lies to women throughout his entire life. Are they just telling us what we want to hear? One of my biggest fears is being with someone who doesn’t actually want to be with me.” There, I said it.

“What is one thing you wish you knew about girls?” I inquired back. I was willing to tell all.

He responded with three:

1. Why they let men make them feel inferior
2. Why they hate each other so much
3. Why they have a poor perception of themselves

“Hmmmm, interesting,” was all I responded until I could fully digest the list. The #GIRLBOSS in me dismissed #1 (“I don’t feel inferior”), and I felt that #3 would be best contemplated over cocktails. However, as I quietly retreated back to blogging, I internally debated #2, thinking: “I don’t hate girls. I love my friends. I think he meant boys.” But the more I thought about it, the more I understood what he was saying.

Enemies-2

Confession

First, the only thing I hate is the word hate. And normally I don’t like to bucket the entire female population into a single, giant sample size and risk overgeneralizing opinions. I do find it interesting to explore how estrogen or a little extra testosterone can affect the way we behave, starting with the way I interact with other girls.

I wish that I could say that the first thing I think when I’m introduced to a girl is “I want to be her friend” or that my first reaction to meeting a new female co-worker is “I can’t wait to collaborate.” Unfortunately, the ugly truth is that I’m normally too busy searching for flaws and focusing on the negative, as if the mere meeting of them is somehow threatening my beauty, humor or waist size. Honestly, it’s not until I look past my initial judgments enough to actually get to know girls and be their friend that I see the positive. And it didn’t take much thought to determine the reason.

Why We Judge Each Other

“I think girls don’t like each other because they’re insecure and jealous… Are guys as jealous of each other?”

“No,” he answered still looking down at his book.

“They’re probably more confident in themselves.” It seemed like a logical explanation.

“No, they’re not more confident. They’re just content,” he said matter-of-factly.

Content? With a scrunched forehead and pursed lips, I sat there stunned. I was having a hard time processing that a state existed between confident and insecure. It seemed strange that someone could simply be okay with things as-is.

“Are you content?” I asked my friend. He is always striving for the best in everything, from intense workouts to yet-to-get tattoos to lofty career and creative ambitions.

Glancing up from his book through his black frames, he met my gaze and smiled: “Yes.”

Huh?! He’s content? In typical Annie fashion I had to Google the meaning. What was I missing?

Content (adj.): In a state of peaceful happiness.

Content sounded lovely. It was time to do a little self-checkup. Did I feel peaceful? Right now, in comfortable, shared silence, yep. Did I feel happy? Enjoying one of my favorite hobbies while munching on a massive salted chocolate chip cookie, of course. Then why did I have a lingering feeling of discontent?

Friends

Perhaps part of it boils down to semantics. Like many girls, I’m in a constant, hurried pursuit of confidence while simultaneously running as far away as possible from complacency. A stationary place in-between felt foreign, nearly nonexistent. Maybe part of my anxiety around the idea of content came from the misconception that being comfortable in this moment meant I wasn’t concerned about making the next one better. But if I feel content now who’s to say I won’t continue to feel this way? And what’s to say there could be better if all we really have is the present?

I also felt that there had to be more to the story. “Aren’t guys competitive with each other?” I asked him. I know my dad is always aiming to shoot the biggest elk, my brother attempts to shoot the best golf game and all my guy friends want a shot with the hottest girls.

“Yes, but guys view competition as a sport.”

Hmm, just a sport. For some girls, like myself, competition seems to be a way of life, whether we’re aware of it or not. You know how people often say that girls dress for girls? I think it’s the case for many things. We dress for each other, strategically take pictures for each other and hell, sometimes even marry and have babies for each other… all while competing to keep a guy’s attention on us and away from each other. It’s pretty exhausting. No wonder we feel discontent.

Curing with Contentment

The more that I thought about the answer to #2, I realized that it starts to answer #1 and #3 as well. Perhaps if we were all more content, more at peace with ourselves and happier with our lives, we wouldn’t feel inferior – to anyone. And obviously, contentment would take care of the poor perception we often have of ourselves. So, what does this mean for day-to-day life?

Of course you’re going to still despise that bitch who hooked up with your boyfriend. Obviously, you’re going to quarrel with catty coworkers. But what about the girl you spot across the bar with an ass you wish you had? Or the cute intern at the office who’s too young to know ‘N Sync? Or the girl with 10k Instagram followers, including your guy friends, crushes and anyone in-between?

Brunette-Barbie

When I said in the “When Longtime Feelings Aren’t Mutual” blog post that it was time to focus on loving myself, I didn’t realize that part of the newfound love didn’t just mean wearing less makeup or embracing my muscles. It also meant loving my life as-is: a state of peaceful happiness. Though this is far easier said than done, I think a tactical approach is to enjoy each moment and attempt to reel in our minds when our thoughts run wild.

My mind is always miles ahead of the present which can sometimes be wonderful – swimming in new ideas and possibilities – but most of the time can be detrimental. When I meet a girl, I start creating a story that their beauty will steal the boyfriend that I don’t even have or that their intelligence will rob me of a job even though I’m awesome at what I do. It’s not dissimilar to the answer I provided my friend about my fear of being with someone who doesn’t want to be with me. Why am I allowing myself to be scared of something and someone that doesn’t exist presently? It’s just a story I’ve created, and if I keep living each moment the way I want has a good possibility of never happening.

It’s probably not the answer my friend – or anyone – was expecting to his three questions about girls, but in doing so I realized something valuable: contentment is more than okay and has the power to dissolve discomfort with ourselves and others, including hot girls.