Competition Between Women
Advice for Women on Competing without Getting Nasty
Dear April Masini,
I've never had trouble with men. My trouble is women. The truth is I end up competing with every woman in my life - from my co-workers, to my sisters, to even my mom. I just noticed this and I don't like it. Is this normal? Do you have any advice to help me stop doing this?"
Girl on Girl Action
April Masini's Advice :
Dear Girl on Girl,
Your lament is very common, only most women aren't as conscious as you are that it's happening. When they're feeling competitive, they figure any discomfort they have is from not winning or being on top. They don't realize that some of their discomfort is from being in the competition in the first place!
So, hats off to you for recognizing the competition. Now, let's look a little closer at what competition is. Competition is all around us. Normally we think of competitors as sports teams who go up against each other to play a public game for an audience -- or television shows like American Idol or America's Next Top Model, where artists and models go up against each other in competition for a prize, in front of an audience. In both cases - the sports and the TV show competitions - the prize is clear. The winners go on to the playoffs and win prizes - cash bonuses and esteem for athletes, and cash bonuses, and career boosts for artists and models.
Women in the Same House:
But what are some other prizes that those of us in competitions are looking to win that don't involve cash bonuses and playoff-games? One prize is love. I know, I know, it's so hard to quantify, but in families, children often compete for a parents' love when they get the idea that there isn't enough to go around, and they want what limited love, and the attention that usually represents it, there is. This leads to sibling rivalry at best. You can see it among brothers as well as sisters. But what about when daughters compete with their own mothers for their father's attention? This happens often, and if the mother is insecure, she may compete with her daughter, too.
How do you end that kind of competition? Easy. Step out of the race. A race - or a competition - only exists if there is a competitor. If there isn't, the competition ceases to exist.
The worst competition can be between mother’s and daughters, and this competition is often sub-conscious and can result in psychologically induced behavior like anorexia and bulimia, where a daughter tries to control her own body in order to be thinner than her mother or get more attention than her mother. This competition between women living with each other is the most acute because of the constant contact and lack of reprieve from the ongoing feelings of not being ”as good as” the other woman in the house.
Women in the Workplace:
Work places can also be breeding grounds for women competing with each other. Work is competitive by nature, but instead of pitting company against company for a piece of the marketplace, sometimes women within a company forge a competition against each other for the attention of the boss. When men compete with each other, there is often a different tenor that is more accepted by society than when women compete with each other. They have a tendency to resort to using all their assets to compete -- their looks, their guile, their charm, etc. Women in competition at work are amusing to men because they compete with each other differently. There is also a sense of relief from the men in the workplace that the women are competing with each other and not with them.
The best way to get out of this competition is to step out of the race. Now, at work, this may be impossible, and in fact, many managers encourage competition because it produces the best results for the company - at the expense of women workers feelings when they can't take the emotional heat of the competition. Another way to get out of this sort of competition is to focus on your own work - a great discipline - and not compare yourself or your work to other peoples' work. This is difficult because most workers and managers do tend to compare work and workers to each other in order to maintain the most efficient output of the work.
Women with Children:
Women in neighborhoods, and most commonly, schools, have become big competitors lately, as women who previously had big careers, have children and transfer their energy to raising the kids. PTAs become just another arena for these moms to become the alpha-female in the schoolyard. School fundraising auctions become battlegrounds for moms who compete to raise the most money, bake the best bake sale goods and donate the most volunteer time.
Many of these female competitors are just taking their workplace energy into the playground, not realizing that the efficiency output of a public school is based on different criterion than the efficiency output of a profit making company. However, many private schools do value this competition among mothers because it can make money for the school when it comes to fundraising, a function that many private schools value.
Because there are children involved in these scenarios, it is important to recognize differences and express emotions tempered with tolerance. For example, you can say, - I wish I could bake perfect cookies like Haley's mom, but I'm just glad I get to contribute in my own way. The PTA bake sale will be thrilled to have my lumpy little chocolate chip cookies, and I'm sure they'll make some nice money for the school's new math book fundraising drive.
Competition is a part of life, and it is here to stay. You, however, get to decide how much a part of your life it is.