Shine theory

shine theory (1)

During the never-ending bout of the flu I ended up listening to some podcasts whilst in the bath.  One I came across was Call Your Girlfriend, a podcast for ‘long-distance besties everywhere’.  Perfect, I wanted something easy to listen to that was chatty, accessible and that might teach me something without requiring a whole lot of thinking.

It was there that I first heard the phrase ‘Shine Theory’ an idea that has been floating around for a while, but thanks to an article by Ann Friedman at The Cut, I finally have a name for.  Shine Theory is simple, it’s the idea of supporting and empowering other women to celebrate their successes and celebrating with them.  Rather than thinking another woman’s success puts you in their shadow, realise that when a friend has the spotlight on them, it shines on their friends too.

Roxane Gay, in How to Be Friends With Another Woman, one of the essays in her Bad Feminist book, puts it brilliantly; “If you and your friend(s) are in the same field and you can collaborate or help each other, do this, without shame. It’s not your fault your friends are awesome.”  In fact, there are so many Shine Theory style pearls of wisdom in How to Be Friends With Another Woman that it’s well worth reading this excerpt.

Your friends are awesome (1)

In an era of ‘fear of missing out’, society pitting women against each other and seemingly perfectly curated social media streams make it easy to succumb to jealousy, the idea of supporting rather than sniping isn’t always easy.  But supporting each other, sharing in success can have real benefits.  Now retired, when my mum was working and received a bonus, she would share with those closest to her, theorising that her success was supported by those who provided a sounding board, or even just made sure there was milk in the fridge for coffee – she shined because we helped her shine.  It’s a rather obvious idea of how shine theory can have benefits, but there are so many other examples.


One of my favourite examples of the impact of shine theory is the end of the movie Mean Girls. *Spoiler alert* all the girls end up shining because they find the people who help them shine, and they’re no longer fighting with each other.  Legally Blonde ends in a similar fashion with Elle and Vivian, enemies at the beginning of the story, becoming best friends.

“I don’t shine if you don’t shine” (1)And there’s some science to back up the idea that supportive female friendships can have a real benefit; studies suggest that women can see an increase in oxytocin levels, which has a powerful indirect effect on women’s health.  A landmark study by Laura Klein and Shelley Taylor showed men and women react to stress differently; women are genetically hard-wired for friendship partly due to the oxytocin released in stressful situations.  Instead of fight-or-flight, women respond with “tend and befriend.”

So whether it’s all for science, a love of 90s girl-power band The Spice Girls or just karma, shine theory’s ‘I shine if you shine’ sounds like a pretty good idea. What do you think?

More reading / listening on Shine Theory

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