September 13, 2019 by Joni Stadtherr, MSW, LICSW\

We live in a competitive world. Today’s women strive to be the perfect woman, daughter, wife or mother, make a difference in their careers, volunteer, run marathons, and look good doing it all!

Competition can be healthy when it facilitates growth and we support one another to become better. Competition gives us goals. Ideally, it is positive and improves our productivity.  Healthy competition at home and work is about using our imaginations and having our ideas heard. Healthy competition is when disagreements do not become interpersonal issues.

Sometimes competition among women is intense. Researchers call this “female rivalry.” Overall, I believe female rivalry portrays a negative stereotype in our society. For instance, female rivalry is sometimes labeled as a “cat fight.” Female rivalry also can make it difficult to be happy for other women when they succeed. Research shows women are more likely to believe there are only so many spots for women to be successful in the workplace; especially in male-dominated fields. Therefore, our competitors are more likely to become women.  

Now let’s add social media (sigh) into the mix. As a therapist, I am as vulnerable as you are. We are constantly subjected to comparisons which can lead to resentment and judgement of yourself and others. It can lead to negative and distorted thinking like you are “not doing enough or aren’t good enough.”  As a result we are, ultimately, putting ourselves at an increased risk of depression and anxiety to “do more.” 

I invite women to be intentional when accessing social media. Every few minutes stop and ask yourself: “What am I noticing right now?”; “What’s my internal experience?”; “Is this helpful or unhelpful to me right now?”; “Is this interaction encouraging me to want to be a better person?” If not, close the application and take a break.

Here are more ways to cope with competition.

  • Be mindful and intentional of who and how you talk about competition and conflicts to others in your workplace and community.
  • If others are talking to you and it has a gossipy feel to it, be careful in your response. Put it back on them; reframe their comment when you notice they are exaggerating the issue.
  • Encourage collaboration over competition. Let others know you are working on finding a solution together.
  • Be kind, talk to everyone not just a few. Find people’s strengths and skill sets unique to them and draw them out.
  • Check your own gender bias. Are my reasons valid? Do a fact check. What evidence do I have to make me think or feel this way?
  • Self-care. We live in a fast-paced world. Find what works for you to disconnect and refill your reserve tank. Be intentional.  Ask for help when you need it.

We need every single woman’s voice in the arena. Let’s use our energy toward each other in a helpful fashion. Model this for our youth and get involved in organizations in your community that promote these values to ensure success for future generations of women.

I leave you with the words of a top female competitor: “Some people play best when they’re frustrated and mad. I play my best when I’m happy. I really, truly do.” Megan Rapinoe, 2019 U.S. Women’s Soccer Team co-captain.