By Telana Simpson

We were a few sessions into her coaching programme, and as she sat down, she shared how she was not looking forward to the business trip coming up. It meant a week travelling with her boss.

One of her coaching outcomes was to find her way to manage, engage with and hopefully develop her relationship with her superior.

“Any suggestion I make, she just pulls it apart” she complained when we first met. “She has even told me not to contribute in specific meetings – but I just had to add something. She was missing some vital information which could have damaged our company. And then afterwards, her boss came to me and he asked why I took so long to speak up!” She felt exasperated, not knowing how to manage the tricky dynamics with her boss.

She was wondering if Pull Her Down Syndromeher boss felt threatened by her, as she had moved to this position with a lot more experience in her area of expertise, and it showed. “I just want to do my job and do it well, and help our company be successful, but I feel like she’s just so against me, and it’s so demotivating to have every idea squashed before it’s even thought through”.

Pull Her Down Syndrome

I hear this kind of story so often. Unfortunately it is more common than we’d like to admit. It’s symptomatic of what’s known as the PHD Syndrome, or Pull Her Down Syndrome.

Amongst women it’s common that when we see or relate to another woman who we perceive as being more successful or beautiful or educated than ourselves, we will find fault with her and avoid any ways of supporting her.

And that’s a sad phenomenon, as the alternative is just full of win-wins.

Shine Theory

In my clients case, if her boss took on the attitude of abundance and the strategy of surrounding herself with staff more competent and knowledgeable than her, and encouraged them to do their best, not only would they shine, but her department would shine, and thus she – as the manager – would shine too.

This option would be an example of the Shine Theory, which was coined by Ann Friedman, editor at NYMag’s The Cut.

PHD Syndrome is cited to be caused by our socialization. We’re conditioned to believe that men are more competent; and further by the fact that there are so few women at the top. Women are competing for the perceived few “token” seats around the boardroom tables and for the apparent scarce men who are suitable as fathers for their future children.

Pull her up: Shine TheoryAnd how women compete, due to being sensitive emotionally and with the biological imperative to protect their child-bearing bodies, is to do so verbally, and not physically.

So we belittle, degrade, talk behind her back, collude to stop her success – we pull her down.

Many of us admit to experiencing this from our peers, and yet few of us look in the mirror and own how we do this to our sisters.

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

The thing with PHD syndrome, and it’s antidote of the Shine Theory, is that these behaviours say more about ourselves than about the other women. It shows our own level of insecurities about our abilities, and our lack of belief in ourselves and in the abundance around us.

Instead of being envious of our sisters’ achievements, we should be celebrating them as examples of what is possible and learning from them as to how we too can achieve that success, have that experience and grow.

Instead of being victims to our inherit conditioning, we should be challenging the status quo and supporting each and every sister who is trying to be more and do more.

We should be surrounding ourselves with our sisters who shine, as their glow will rub off on us, and our mutual support of one another will start a Shine Revolution!

The Shine Revolution

How do we do this, you ask? I believe the foundation is to look in the mirror and develop a strong and unconditional self esteem. And then to express that through our every growing self confidence.

The Shine TheoryWhen we understand that True Self Esteem is about the fact that we are magnificent human beings of infinite worth and value, and that we express this through our human doing and thus add (our) value to the world, we no longer have to compare ourselves to others to feel a sense of worth.
Without the need to do and achieve in order to prove we have worth, we no longer use “Other Esteem” to feel that we are good enough. Instead, we esteem ourselves (Self Esteem) and come from the inside out, expressing our value through our doing and achievements.

With a strong unconditional sense of what I call True Self Esteem, we can differentiate that our Self Confidence is what is conditional, and will go up and down, depending on how we practice, learn and develop skills: the doing part of being human.

From True Self Esteem, we can then acknowledge that our sisters are worthy too, and can support them in developing their expressions and ways of adding their value to the world.

And the thing with Self Confidence, is it can be contagious. So as we surround ourselves with our sisters who shine, so we are lit up too. As we shine, so we light up the way for others. As we esteem ourselves, so we give others permission to esteem themselves too.

And as we become the change we wish to see in our Sisterhoods, so we inspire our sisters to follow our lead, and we all win.

So: will you support me in starting a Shine Revolution?

Will you shine with me?


This article was first published in the Fabulous Woman Magazine, Summer 2015
and is reprinted here.