In all of my 20-something years, I have never touched an experience as glorious and as awe-inspiring as that of the experience of womanhood. I have witnessed it. I have lived it. I have breathed it. Through its many trials and tribulations. Through its joys and its pains. The entirety of my existence is made up of the softness and the delicacy of being a woman—and of the mere magic that occurs in the midst of women supporting women.

If there’s anything that I have learned from that magic, it’s this: Women need other women in their lives who will support them unconditionally. Women need other women who will root for them, love them, value them and stand in their corner no matter the weather.

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Because as women, sisterhood is the fabric of our existence. It is the pillar of our foundation and the firmness of our being.

And unfathomable change can happen when women support each other. In a society where we are often undermined, undervalued and unsupported, we need each other more than ever.

The soundness and solidity that accompanies the congregation of women is a force to be reckoned with.

But how are we truly showing up for one another? How are we navigating our female friendships without feeling the need to compete with or tear each other down?

I recently posed a question to women through my Instagram story: Do you feel supported by other women? The responses I received were dispiriting. Many women felt like they only received support when going through tough times, such as a miscarriage or relationship problems, yet lacked that same support when achieving things, like a new career or a life-changing opportunity. 

Some women felt like they were more likely to receive support from women of different races than from women within their own race. And other women mentioned that it was hard to support or feel supported due to their own insecurities or projections and anticipation of negativity coming from other women.

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It was surprising how many shared experiences came from those who answered the question, and it reminded me of my own struggle with navigating female friendships. Because of my negative emotional experiences with women, over the years I began to value those friendships less and less. I kept my circle to a mere few, and even still had trouble feeling supported or being as supportive as I could.

The problem with women supporting women is deeply rooted in the society that we live in. A lot of it spews from what the world has taught us to believe we must do in order to succeed. Women are often competing for opportunities that are already scarce to us in the first place. The complexity of knowing that there is room for all of us to thrive when we are placed in a society that tells us otherwise is hard to understand.

But when I became a mother, the pressing need for sisterhood returned. I needed to be wrapped in the maternal comfort of other mothers. I needed the renewing validation of other women around me. Because the soundness and solidity that accompanies the congregation of women is a force to be reckoned with.

Related: My wish? For moms to support each other—differences and all

In these past couple of years, I have been leaning into women more than ever—and I have been working on being a space that other women feel comfortable leaning into as well.

Because that’s what we need—women supporting women. Unconditionally. Without hidden agendas. Without ill-intent.

There is room for all of us. One woman’s praise of another woman doesn’t lower her own success. It makes our voices louder as a collective. And in a society where our voices are nearly muted, we need each other to be amplified. And when we as women allow each other to shine, the dim world that has been handed to us gets brighter.

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We nurture everyone else around us. So why not nurture each other as well? There’s no need to be a mean girl. There’s no need to be stand-offish or discouraging. You may have had negative experiences with women in your life. You may have been the cause of another woman’s negative experience with women. But starting now, you can do better.

So how can you support other women, you may wonder? Here are a few ways to begin:

1. Start by loving yourself

In the words of Maya Angelou: “A woman in harmony with her spirit is like a river flowing. She goes where she will without pretense and arrives at her destination prepared to be herself and only herself.” It all begins and ends with you. When you’re confident in yourself, when you love yourself, it has the ability to decrease room for your own insecurities to be externalized and projected onto women around you. And when women see other women loving themselves boldly, they will follow. 

All women should be a river flowing. Because when we show up as our genuine selves, when we refuse to shrink back, we make the world know us by our names.

2. Be open-minded

Your relationships with women in your life will have different dynamics. Because everyone won’t be the same. You have those relationships with your mother, your sisters, your daughters, your friends, your female colleagues and other women in your life. Each relationship requires something different from you. Learn how to ebb and flow with each one so that you know how to tailor your support. Though women experience many of the same challenges, every woman needs to be supported in different ways. Being open-minded to different experiences and beliefs or values will help you to be a better comrade.

3. Don’t hold back your praise

Above all, women deserve to be celebrated and complimented. Sometimes all it takes is to hear a line of validation from another woman who is watching. It’s the fuel that keeps us going despite the many barriers that are placed in our way. Women supporting women means through thick and thin.

And know that praise isn’t limited to accomplishments. Learn how to praise women when they make it through some of the toughest moments of their lives. Learn how to praise them for having the vigor to make hard decisions. Learn how to praise them just because. And while you’re celebrating and praising other women, don’t forget to celebrate and praise yourself, too.

4. Teach by being

In more words of Maya Angelou: “I would like to be known as an intelligent woman, a courageous woman, a loving woman, a woman who teaches by being.” Supporting women isn’t just external. It’s internal. It starts with supporting yourself. When you are in tune with who you are, you know how to stand firm in your identity. You refuse to settle for anything less than what you deserve. And you inspire other women around you to do the same. To find harmony. To not recoil. To walk daringly in the true essence of their beings.

6. Pass it down

Our daughters will be the next women to trailblaze the world. We have to be sure that we are teaching them that there is room for every woman to thrive. We have to be sure that we are weaving them with kindness and love and not showing them to be rude or put other women down. They study our interactions with the women in our lives. And they study our interactions with ourselves. So make those interactions count.

Related: Mom shares brilliant way to challenge ‘rude’ behavior in viral post

7. Be vulnerable

Storytelling is a natural way to connect humans. Because they feel seen, heard and less alone. Vulnerability opens you to a fullness that being isolated never could. Weaving sisterhood takes vulnerability. When we are missing that trait, I believe that we are missing a valuable opportunity to experience the depth of pure and genuine support.

Women supporting women is the fundamental key.

We all have differences—whether that be race, ethnicity, upbringing, beliefs or values. But the one thing that joins us together is a lived experience of womanhood. We have all witnessed it. We have all lived it. We have all breathed it.

Because as women, we share many universal experiences—and most importantly, we rise by lifting each other.