Men are more competitive than women! That’s according to a recent study completed at Grand Valley State University in Michigan. Their data shows that even among highly competitive college athletes, men have a slight edge on their female counterparts when it comes to overall competitiveness. The results showed that men were driven by their desire for status and recognition, while women were much more team-oriented.
I’m not buying it…I think women are just as competitive as men, I just think that we are programmed to compete differently. Women love to win just as much as men do, but at some point in our youth we learn that competing is not as simple as it seems.
I am the first to admit that I love to compete, I absolutely love it! I love the preparation, the buzz of the adrenalin, the sense of achievement when you perform at your best. And I’m sure, if you are honest, you’ll agree that as women we all love it – yes you too! Some of that competition not so healthy…don’t pretend you haven’t played I’m the better mom; or I’m the hotter girlfriend; or I’m the goodiest goody goody or whatever other crazy girl game there is out there! I even find myself regularly competing with my 5-year-old niece – and let me just say in a game of “who’s the biggest b…” she’s taking on a big opponent!
Healthy competition and confidence are encouraged in boys but often seen as undesirable traits in girls. You don’t believe me? My 12-year-old son at an all boys school is encouraged to compete in everything…in sports teams, in individual sports, in results and …well need I say more?
Boys are not only taught to compete openly but through that competition they are taught three vital lessons:
1. They are taught about competing cooperatively – they learn that you can do your best and still help others to do their best; that winning doesn’t mean win at all costs. They learn the value of teamwork.
2. They are taught that we all have different talents, how to identify what theirs is, and then how to excel at it. They learn to do their personal best and to be comfortable with it. They also learn to celebrate the talent in others, and how to be proud of the success of others.
3. They practice losing. With so many opportunities to compete, they learn how to accept failure and thus how to develop resilience.
Competition is not always unhealthy, if you do your personal best, you are a winner and you do not have to measure performance against everyone else. This is in fact a biblical principle: to do whatever you do at your best ability. When we operate at our best ability and have fun we can compete cooperatively.
I know a girls schools, just up the road, where the approach is different. Girls are encouraged not to stand out. Everyone gets a prize. Teams are constructed based on mixed ability and girls are encouraged to do their personal best and only to compete for fun …a noble concept I agree…but how is that helping them navigate the real world? How do women learn to share their competitiveness openly if we teach them that they are not supposed to win? Are we not swapping healthy competition for secret feelings of envy and desire and the guilty desires for the other to fail? Are we missing an opportunity to help them nurture their talent and learn to excel healthily?
The amount of emotional bullying that takes place in modern girls is reaching shocking levels and we have to ask ourselves what we are teaching the women of the future? Are we teaching them to channel their natural competitive spirit healthily or are we teaching them to undermine one another? Are we teaching them to trust their belief in their own ability or are stealing the opportunity to give them that confidence?
If you haven’t seen the Always #LikeAGirl campaign, do yourself a favour and watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XjJQBjWYDTs . Young girls love to compete, they trust their ability, they want to find their talent and they are proud to do their best. Somewhere on the journey to womanhood it all gets very confused and we stop believing in ourselves and, worse than that, we stop believing in other women.
Most of us have an inherent desire to find our purpose, to make a difference in this crazy world. Women especially are driven by meaning and the need to make a difference, why then are we not doing more to encourage each other? Why do women seem to be in a crazy competition against one another?
Today I want to give you, as women, an opportunity to make a difference and to find your purpose – by becoming a woman who supports women. You’ve heard of #HeForShe? All too often, we forget to remind the incredible women around us just how much we appreciate & admire them #SheforShe. It’s high time that we start turning this around. More than ever, in today’s world women need women. We need to be uplifting, inspiring and supporting each other. We need to be teaching our girls by our actions, that women help women, that women are proud of each other, that women are proud to celebrate one another’s successes.
Let’s start channelling our competitive spirit better. Let’s all encourage young girls to climb higher, be braver, to test their limits healthily. Let’s encourage our friends and colleagues and celebrate their amazing and unique abilities. Let’s start competing more openly and cooperatively.
There will always be someone prettier and cleverer and thinner and sexier, celebrate that with her – it’s hard work all that beautifulness! Lets remind all the amazing women we meet just how incredible they are. Let’s work together to get more women to succeed.
Let’s make this one competition where we all win.