I think it starts between girls. The pretty one who looks a little too often in the mirror and innocently, at first, wants approval from her friends, asking: "Do you like the color of my eyes?" Or the smart one who want to show her sisters how much she has learned at school. The reactions may vary but a whole culture of disdain for the conceited behavior of girls quickly embeds itself into the psyche of young females and we learn to self deprecate, to put ourselves down and to admire our friends more than ourselves; this gives us what we, in the end, feel is a better deal; friendships and relationships.
So the conversations quickly transform. They become an exchange of power in which power is given away, quickly, as if it's a hot thing, too hot to touch, dropped back and forth into the laps of girls and, later women, like so much radioactive material.
"I like your jacket," or, "I like your shoes," can be a common greeting among young women - a way of playing submissive of saying,"I want to be friends and I'm not conceited." This is code for women and a way in which we decide who we "like" or don't like.
As women grow into their power and realize that they actually want to enjoy their own eye color, intelligence, knowledge base and lives, they wrestle with a level of social strangeness, sometimes losing certain circles, sometimes being considered a little too, well, something.
These self effacing qualities girls learn and later hone to a fine art can carry over into partnerships, business relationships and even marriage. With a societal, cultural norm of women being more attractive when they throw their power into the laps of others, many women can find themselves adrift, floating in river of sharks, armor off, oars lost.
So how do we retrieve our own power while maintaining our friendships and our attractive qualities? Perhaps being a little less quick to throw it away will come in handy over the long run.
Maintaining your ability to trust, love and enjoy yourself while still being supportive of others is a healthier way to live.