The sisterhood wound is a phenomenon that has been embedded in our collective consciousness since the dawn of patriarchy. In its wake, it has left many women struggling with a deep sense of self-rejection caused by internalized misogyny and impossible standards to live up to. As a result, we find ourselves judging other women (internally and socially) for living their lives on their terms, rebelling against the expectations that we ourselves try to conform to. It is an invisible wound: one which is not talked about openly but affects thousands of women across the world every day.
What is the Sisterhood Wound?
For centuries, the sisterhood wound has been a silent yet powerful force in our lives; an invisible yet all-pervasive pain that has kept us rooted in some level of self-loathing, inauthentically showing up in our communities with other women, and ultimately from claiming our power. This wound is rooted in patriarchy and its rigid standards of beauty, worth, and success. It’s a collective self-rejection that we project onto each other in a sort of unconscious competition for power and belonging.
We feel it when we judge another woman for not living up to our own expectations or ideals — when we compare ourselves to those around us instead of appreciating our unique gifts and talents. We feel it when we’re told that we can’t trust other women, when in truth – we’re better together. But this wound does not have to define who we are or how we relate to one another — if only we could take the time to heal it.
It’s interesting to look at how these standards we’re collectively forced to conform to are set. How when we don’t live up to them we find ourselves questioning our worth, finding new ways to find belonging (namely compromising boundaries, people pleasing and chronic over giving) and stuck in our current place because we’re so focused on fixing what isn’t even broken. Meanwhile other women can choose for themselves, and when they opt for something other than this arbitrary standard we question, judge, and assume. Ultimately, they’ve given themselves permission to live life in a way that we don’t… and when we aren’t used to examining our shadow aspects, we resent them for it. Instead, we can look at the feelings that arise when we’re triggered by this rebellion and ask ourselves:
Why do I care so much about her behaviour?
What is she allowing herself to do, that I wish I could allow for myself?
What am I making her behaviour or her choice mean about her as a person?
The Root: what causes the Sisterhood Wound?
The pain of the sisterhood wound cuts deep and has been felt by many generations. Patriarchal pressure and expectation have defined for us what it means to be a woman, and what our place is, and every generation passes that story down to the next. It may begin with the patriarchy, but the stories passed down through the matrilineal lineage (our motherhood wound) that amplifies this pain.
It creates a great divide. Women have learned to struggle with supporting other women in a world that often pits us against each other. We’re seeing this unravel now, but it’s a slow and gradual process. This wound lies not only in external forces but also within ourselves. We’re dismantling everything we’ve heard from our culture, our family, the media and so on, and learning how to honour our truth – not the one that was fed to us.
In childhood we learned first by observing our mothers and how they related to other women and their own bodies. Then we learned what we heard about our own bodies, particularly as we began to develop in puberty. This continued on with competition for romantic partners, job opportunities, spots on the PTA… always this feeling that there’s never enough to go around, always in this masculine state of competition and comparison instead of seeing how supported we’d be working on it together, leaning into our natural ways of connecting and community building.
Going against our nature, leaving parts of ourselves that we’ve been told are bad or undesirable behind, shapeshifting to conform to someone else’s expectations… it creates layers upon layers of self abandonment. And it doesn’t create happiness. When we witness someone standing in the truth of who they are (instead of who they’re told to be) it can be uncomfortable, to say the least.
Symptoms of the Sisterhood Wound
The sisterhood wound can manifest itself in a variety of ways: from feeling powerless and voiceless to feeling disconnected and inauthentic. But what exactly is this wound, and how can we begin to heal it?
Women experience it on all levels – emotionally, mentally, and even spiritually. It causes us to feel isolated, gossip, judge other women (and feel judged ourselves), or unable to access support from them when we need it most because we fear judgment, or worse: being labelled a bad wife/mother/daughter/friend. We may also struggle with self-doubt as we try to make our way through a world that doesn’t seem built for us.
It impacts our relationships as mothers, daughters, wives, sisters, friends. It makes us question our worth because we’re not standing in the fullest expression of ourselves, holding back because we think that aspect isn’t likable. So we worry: if they knew the real me, would they still keep me around?
All the while, patriarchal systems of oppression keep winning. So long as we’re distracted by competing with each other and hating ourselves, we aren’t creating much needed change.
The Impact on Women
The power of sisterhood is a force that has been known to elevate, empower, and provide comfort for many women across the globe. But what happens when this bond is broken? What does it mean to experience a wound of sisterhood?
The impact of these wounds can be immense and long-lasting. Depending upon the nature and severity of the wound, it can cause feelings of betrayal, hurt, anger, shame, guilt or even fear in those affected by it. Women who have experienced such an affliction may find themselves struggling with trust issues or an inability to connect with their own emotions due to their pain. These effects can carry over into other relationships as well as affect mental health and overall wellbeing.
Ultimately, healing from these wounds requires an understanding heart and deep self-reflection, as well as the courage to be both vulnerable and willing to examine the realms that home these deeper aches – our own shadow.
The Power of the Sisterhood Bond
The power of the sisterhood bond is a mystery that has captivated us for centuries, many cultures live it as a daily reality while we in the west are still finding our way back. Women have the capacity to create an unbreakable bond, transcending time and space to create a powerful connection between them. But what is it about this mysterious force that binds women together?
It is said that the essence of this power lies in the shared experiences of being a woman (regardless of the sex you were assigned at birth). Sisterhood creates a safe place where members can come together to share their stories and find solace in knowing that they are not alone in their struggles. While it’s true that no two people share the same story, there is something innately comforting about being surrounded by other women who understand each other’s joys and pains.
But first: before we can step into this vulnerable space, we need to explore our own shadows. By healing the wound we carry within, we can show up more wholly in community, being a true sister to our fellow women, building greater self trust, and becoming an example of what is possible. The more of us that do this work of shining the light into the shadows and returning to the collective more healed, the faster the sisterhood wound becomes a distant thing of the past.
And of course, we must recognize that not every woman is going to be willing to do this work, and we weren’t all meant to in this lifetime. This means having compassion when you see someone lash out from their own sisterhood wound, and also gifting yourself some distance when a relationship does more harm than good.
If you’re ready to examine your personal sisterhood wound and the ways it is slowing you down and holding you back, check out my current coaching offerings to find what will work best for you.