For centuries, women have been given the unfortunate stereotype of being mean, catty and competitive with each other, while men are thought to be more laid back when interacting with other men. Though this is almost certainly true in specific, individual incidents, this reputation doesn’t actually make sense in the grand scheme of things considering women have been scientifically proven to be less competitive than men. So, how can this stereotype be explained?
According to Lynn Margolies Ph.D. at Psych Central, adults tend to encourage competition among boys but try to avoid creating competitive atmospheres for girls. It’s thought that as males grow up, competition in the form of sports, games and debates enables them to relate to each other, create bonds and experience healthy male friendships. Having experienced this from an early age, men tend to be far more comfortable in competitive situations than women, and even regard winning as a priority. Plus, they rarely feel bad for those who have lost but still manage to continue friendships without any lasting effects following competition.
Conversely, women are encouraged to form friendships as young children in other ways that rarely involve competition according to Margolies. If anything, competitive spirit in females is hidden so that nobody feels intimidated or less-than, which in turn means that it cannot be expressed in a healthy, positive way. Instead, Margolies suggests that it remains within, turning into envy and a guilty desire for other women to fail. Competitive spirit becomes a sign of insecurities and may come out as hostility, fear and shame of one’s own success.
On the other hand, less naturally competitive women may even self-sabotage in order to avoid becoming the subject of others’ resentment or to ensure another female friend is protected. For instance, if a female friend is eating unhealthy she may join them so their companion doesn’t feel alone or so that no one views them as superior. Ultimately, women are more inclined towards caring for others emotionally and so for a lot of women, the act of making anyone else feel inferior is avoided.
Of course, there are women who compete in various competitions and sports. There are hundreds of female athletes from around the world, many of whom have managed to rise above feelings of disdain or pity for their rivals. Still, these women do occasionally have to deal with judgement from others. For example, athlete Jenny Thompson posed half-nude for Sports Illustrated and was instantly judged as too sexual, too proud, too muscular, too stuck up, too mannish. The criticisms were endless, and so Thompson had to abandon being easily accepted by others in exchange for living her own life and competing. An undeniably brave move, to be sure.
Arguably, women who compete within male-dominated arenas have an even more difficult time. For centuries, poker, for instance, has been regarded as a man’s sport, so when a few courageous women entered the poker world, there was a lot of judgement. Poker pro Vanessa Selbst has expressed her opinions on how different genders are expected to compete in poker on numerous occasions, often mentioning that women are supposed to be demure while men are allowed to be aggressive. Like in athletics, many women who wish to compete in poker must cut ties to any need to be accepted, and must instead be fully committed to the game.
So, how can women begin feeling more comfortable in competitive situations?
Confidence is Key
Firstly, it is important to know that confidence is key. When a woman has confidence, she will not be susceptible to feelings of vulnerability, nor will she feel the need to threaten other women. Instead, she will face success without being intimidated and will help her fellow women climb to the top with her. The confident woman knows that she has everything she needs to succeed, and will encourage her allies to do the same.
Second Place is Okay
Of course, competition means that not everyone can win and some will have to accept defeat. Instead of feeling guilty, it’s time to learn the value of coming in second or even third. Take professional poker, for example, in each round and tournament there will be just one winner and while nobody particularly likes losing, pros like Phil Hellmuth and Jay Farber who are renowned for placing second continue to strive for success. After all, if they had come first what would there be for them to aim for? Who would they aim to emulate?
Individual yet Emotional
All too often, women tend to flock together, relying on each other for emotional support. However, it is entirely possible to be autonomous while remaining emotionally reliable, empathetic and caring. Instead of being overprotective, it’s better to instill feelings of empowerment, individuality and strength in female friends
Female friendships are a beautiful thing that needn’t be threatened by competition, especially since the results have no impact on the fiber of which someone is an individual or what a friendship means. That’s our take anyway; let us know what you think about competition among women in the comments below.
Find more women’s interests articles at clichemag.com
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