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For the majority of my life, I've been one of those girls who had more guy friends than girlfriends. When questioned, I always answered with, “I don’t get along with girls like that.” And the truth was, I didn’t.

From middle school to high school, girls gave me hell. I was picked on, lied on, talked about, called names, mistreated and bullied by, you guessed it, girls.

I had girls follow behind me in our school hallway as they yelled every mean thing they could think of. I was constantly called an Oreo because I “talked white.” One girl even tried to fight me, and I still have no clue why. I never had my lunch money stolen or anything like in the movies, but those girls did steal pieces of me I didn’t know people could take. Yet, somehow through all that trauma, I managed to still have a handful of girlfriends while growing up — mostly because that was all I could handle and trust.

As I transitioned into womanhood, my past experiences shaped how I saw other women. Simply put, I saw a lot of them as an enemy or my competition. I even saw them as a threat — a threat to my relationships with men, and a threat to how I saw myself and how others saw me. I was still that young girl, hurt and crying alone in her room because she couldn’t understand why someone who barely knew her hated her so much. It wasn’t until I got older that I learned how people see and treat you is really a reflection of them, not you.

I will admit that after those experiences as a young girl I was hurtful toward other women who did not deserve it. Now, I want to sincerely apologize to all the women I treated as enemies instead of allies. To those who were fighting their own silent battles and were at war with their own demons, I am sorry I did not uplift you, love on you, speak life into you or tell that raggedy guy we were arguing over to kick rocks. But in all honesty, I didn’t know how to acknowledge your beauty without diminishing my own.

However, once I mustered up the courage to put my hurt feelings to the side and heal, I saw that another woman’s beauty did not take away from my own. Her intelligence, class and wit were not a threat because we were not opponents but teammates. She was not my competition, because we each had our own lane, race and finish line to cross. Her glow and confidence did not appear overnight; they came from years of shedding her insecurities and growing to love being in her own skin. How could I fault her for that? If anything, she was living proof that if I took the time to truly see and love myself, that could be me, too.

As I reflect on every aspect of my life (at the ripe old age of 30-something), I don’t know what I would do without my friendships with other women, both past and present. They have nurtured me, loved me, poured into me, shown me grace and forgiveness, taught me how to love myself and allowed me to be my whole self without judgment. And they continue to challenge me, root for me, pray for me, be my ride or die fly (because we do not die over here), and give me swift reminders that the world does not revolve around me.

Sisterhood is undervalued but necessary, and it’s one of the most powerful types of love that exist.