The female sex is often stereotyped as being “catty” and competitive, but this is at odds with the way women are socialized to get along and make everyone happy, says psychologist Lynn Margolies of PsychCentral. “Because women learn that they are not supposed to be competitive and win at others’ expense, their natural competitive spirit cannot be shared openly, happily, or even jokingly with other women,” she writes. “What could have been healthy competition becomes a secret feeling of envy and desire for the other to fail – laced with guilt and shame." Sound familiar? There are ways of putting an end to this unhealthy cycle.
Dr. Margolies says that unhealthy competition between women often masks feelings of insecurity and fear of success, and that women can find themselves playing down their own success just to make their friends feel better. Instead of giving in to feelings of envy and anger because someone else represents the success you’d like to have, build yourself up with your own accomplishments. When you do something well, be proud of yourself. And don’t be afraid to try the things you’ve always wanted to do. A true friend will be happy for you.
Empathize, but Don’t Identify
Women are socialized to be caring and empathetic, which is a good thing, Dr. Margolies writes. But sometimes we can go too far, by identifying with the insecurity of others and projecting that onto ourselves. Have you ever eaten a dessert you didn’t want because your friend ordered it and you couldn’t bring yourself to make her feel bad? Have you ever begged a friend to eat unhealthy food with you just because you felt insecure about your diet? This is common, says Dr. Margolies. But it’s healthier to care about your friend’s feelings without identifying with her to the extent that you sabotage yourself.
Almost 90 percent of mothers judge other mothers for everything from child behavior to house cleaning, according to Rebecca Dube of the Today News Network. The real pressure, though, comes from within, said a mom from Wyoming. Think about how much pressure it puts on the kids when you tie their behavior to your worth as a mother. Instead of measuring other mom friends to your standards, accept that no mother is perfect and focus on doing the best you can. When other moms see that you’re not judging and comparing, they’ll feel more comfortable around you and may stop “The Mom-Judging Olympics” as well.
Finally, the real test of healthy competition in a relationship is whether or not you can congratulate your friend sincerely without feelings of insecurity creeping in. If she got a promotion at work or started eating healthier foods, be happy for her. The next time you do something well, she should be able to congratulate you with genuine good will, too.