Cast your mind back, girls. Do you remember when it started happening to you? Was it in primary years? Earlier? High school? Or when you entered the workforce? Motherhood is another prime time of your life when it can strike. Or have you always done it?
I’m talking about competing against other girls.
If seeing each other as competition for [insert] friendships/jobs/men/fashion sense/marriage/motherhood were a Commonwealth Games sport, the majority of us would be standing at the podium winning medals on a regular basis. We’re bloody good at it.
Why? How did it happen? Who encouraged us to be like that?
Watching toddlers at play, you start to see the narrative playing out. Girls become really good at pouting and sulking when they don’t get their way, especially the ones that have been told they’re ‘pretty’ or ‘gorgeous’ their whole three or four years of life. If little girls are grabbing and kissing boys, their parents croon jokingly about who they are going to marry, or who their boyfriend is at kindy. Young girls immediately get the impression that finding a partner and being paired off is the end goal, and the seed of competition for affection starts right there.
Primary school years can often be fraught with who did or didn’t get invited to a birthday party, or over for a playdate or sleepover. We cluster into groups with a Queen Bee generally taking centre-stage, her adoring minions gathered around her. We start to compete against one another for her affections and attention. Woe betide any of us that dare think outside the group, or have an opposing opinion. It’s all about acceptance and inclusion, even to the point of betraying another to remain in the group.
High school brings with it many of the same cliques, but with the increasing importance of popularity. Throw into the mix our budding hormones and the interest of teenage boys, and it’s on. We’re thrown against one another to compete, and win. Lifelong friends can be cast aside if the romantic attentions of another come into play. We start comparing ourselves to others, rearranging our opinions, wardrobes, and friendship groups to suit. As anyone who has been through adolescence would agree, teenage girls can be brutal.
Upon leaving school and finding our feet in the world, we’re suddenly competing against each other for much higher stakes – university placements, jobs, partners, flats, travel experiences, better work stories. It’s a constant, exhausting battle.
I won’t even begin to try and explain the competition that comes from other mothers once there are babies in the mix. I’ve been gobsmacked at some of the comments and ‘advice’ thrown my way from other women intent on winning some sort of invisible ‘Mother of the Year’ prize. It’s an impossible game to try and win. Most of us would be happy if we got through the day without accidentally doing some sort of damage to the fruit of our loins.
Thankfully, with the benefit of hindsight, this sort of senseless competing dies down for most of us from our mid-30s/ early 40s. You kind of reach a point when you realise that actually, the only person you were ever REALLY competing against was … yourself. Your own insecurities, needs and wants. Those that continue on their merry way past this point are probably the ones who will end up being those judgey old ladies who tell you that you’re being a terrible mother when your child is throwing snotballs at her younger brother (which may be true at this particular point in time, but you don’t need HER to tell you that).
So here’s my two cents worth of advice: There are always going to be other girls and women out there that are going to try and lure you into competing with them.
It’s not a race when one of you gracefully decides not to compete. Sure, fight for what’s important to you, but don’t fight the fight because someone else is goading you into it.
Maybe if we all championed each other instead of competing, there would be much better outcomes for all of us.Support Villainesse