Competing In A Competition You Didn’t Realize You Were In

April 5, 2013  |  


There’s an upside of growing up in a predominately female household for a girl.  My father was the only male, while my three sisters, an aunt, my mother and myself dominated.  The upside is that at a young age I could battle all of my feelings of insecurity.  My sisters and I were constantly being compared to each other by family members, classmates, teachers and friends.  There were always comments of:  “Well [insert sister name here] is better [insert character trait that you’re lacking].  What happened with you?”  After a while and many failed attempts to try to become like your siblings you learn that you can only be yourself and you learn to embrace it.  You stop trying to be better than them, and you begin to try to be a better you, or that’s how it was for me.

It’s always a little awkward when you find out that someone is competing against you when you’re not in an actual competition.  Competition can be a good thing, and very healthy.  It can increase your drive and make you want to be a better person.  However, it concerns me when I find out that people are competing against me over something completely insignificant.

I remember my very first time having this realization.

I was in first grade and I had just moved from Alabama and was living in East St. Louis.  People are interested in “new” things, and that was true for me when I first started attending my elementary school.  I don’t know if other kids did this, but we had this thing called “Play Mamas.”  Where an older girl would kind of “adopt” you and get you things, like candy, toys, and if you had a problem with someone else, you tell your “Play Mama” and she’ll handle it for you.

Before East St. Louis I had never heard of such a thing, so when a girl came up to me and asked me to be her play daughter she had to explain to me to just accept the invitation because it was an honor.  Being the young people pleaser that I was, I accepted.  I also accepted the six other invitations from other random older girls.  My role was to allow them to play in my hair and buy me candy, so I did that.

It wasn’t until a month or two later that a saw a girl in my class crying.  I went over to her to see what was wrong and she told me she was certain that after getting her new braids and outfit that she would have more “Play Mamas” than me, but she didn’t and she was mad.  I was caught off guard, because, what did I have to do with the number of “Play Mamas” you had?  But after my “Play Mamas” realized that I was cheating on them (I didn’t know you could only have one), they dumped me.  A week or two after I remember girls bragging to me about their superiority of keeping the older girls happy over me.  Way to stay classy, first graders.

This type of behavior is expected in children, but it persisted in high school over the dumbest things.  Everything was a competition.  Who could get to class faster, who had the smallest waist, and who would guys like better when they got their weave.  The thing was, I was always caught off guard whenever someone brought it to my attention that they were competing with me, or couldn’t wait until someone else beat me in this unknown competition.  I even lost friendships when I won a competition I didn’t realize I was in.

I realized then that this type of competition could be a scary thing.  Now, don’t think that I don’t suffer from it too occasionally.  I think everyone has at one point of time, saw something that someone possessed, and as childish as it was, wanted to win out over them, even if they don’t know who you are.  I’m not opposed to competing with people, but I more so compete with myself.  I want to do better for me.

The thing is, there will always be someone more pretty, smarter, or more successful than you, and comparing yourself to them is only going to make you more insecure about your own potential greatness.  Try to make yourself better, but also be aware that people will try to compete with you, no matter if you expect them to or not.  But as long as you’re being the best you that you can be, then don’t let it bother you.

Kendra Koger has gotten rid of her Play Mama philandering ways and got herself on twitter @kkoger.

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  • AintGonnaBringMeDown

    Great story! I am a little late to comment but this resonates with me. Found your story through a google search. I have a few friends who are always in competition with me over stupid thing. My one friends thinks every guy I date asks her out and always makes comments and is nosy; another friend is jealous of my success–I haven’t talked to her since this February. And I think competition becomes bad when it turns into jealousy. I came from a working class family and my parents did not go to college nor did my brother. My sister did but she didn’t graduate. I did graduate and I have a Master’s degree. My parents are mad at me for it and say that I think they are better than they are and that my Master’s degree graduation was not important to them. My dad was an alcoholic so it just threw salt on the wound. At times, I feel like some people are out to destroy me and want me to make me feel bad for my life and how far I have come and my success. It makes me want to do more, travel more, and just be a better person. All you can do is feel sorry for these people.

  • This story is so true, when you don’t know is scary. Go figure!

  • cocokitten

    I have the same competiton wit my cousin. Its so annoying..why do we car about being better than another. The only thing that matters is how u see urself. It kept us fr having a relationship for so long. Just pointless

  • pickneychile

    Lol never heard of a play mama. I had a friend in Jr high who thought she beat me on some unspoken competition because she got a “boyfriend” before me. I was all confused because I wasn’t aware that it was a race and I didn’t care about her ugly little boyfriend. To this day we aren’t even close but she still always reaches out when she feels she’s “catching up to me” in different areas. I got my degree a year before her and didn’t feel the need to tell her about it because, like I said we ain’t close. Yet when she graduated she suddenly reappeared and invited me to her grad party…then I got engaged and didn’t go looking for her, and she got engaged a year later and felt the need to message me about it and act like the world stopped turning because her avatar looking bf proposed. Then I got married and didn’t reach out to her. I’m assuming when she gets married she’ll be on the same dumb stuff as usual. It’s so silly and painfully obvious that everything is still a competition to her! Smh

    • cocokitten

      DWLLLLLLLLLLLL…..aVATAR looking boyfren…nice one

  • Meka X

    In most cases, silent competition boils down to three things, jealousy, envy or admiration. What else could it be other than those three things? I just wish that more people could be humble, uplifting and most of all be happy for themselves and others. I can’t understand why people just can’t admit to liking someone’s style and just compliment them and still do their own thing without feeling the need to be competitive.

  • Shantise

    Woooow LOL i’m 24 and you definately took me back to my elementary school days with my “Play Mommas”. I actually ran into one of my play mommas at church a few Sundays ago kinda awkward lmao but anywho, yes competition can definitely be healthy until the person that you’re unknowingly competing with acts crazy (I recently learned that there is a competition between me and my supervisor…and I’m an intern…go figure smh)

  • Toya Sharee

    This was such a cute story LOL. I think it’s understandable when children compete because when you just want to feel special and liked. Adults do as well, but most of us gain a sense of confidence where you no longer care what everyone else is doing because you’re just trynna do you. I had this “competition” situation with my cousin. We had started to date two best friends around the same time and it got to the point where every Valentine’s Day she would call me to brag about the gifts her man had gotten her before asking me, “So what did yours do for you?” It wasn’t just curiosity. It was a check-in to see whose man loved them more based on how much money he was spending. That along with other questionable behavior always made me uncomfortable telling her anything because I felt like she was running a tally in her head. I thought maybe I was overreacting until she was talking about her sister’s relationship and said something like, “I was trying to tell her that’s why me and my man’s relationship is better than her’s cause he makes sure I’m taken care of.” That’s when I was convinced that this broad was just trying to make sure she had the “top” relationship. I was like, “Wow, this is a competition? What do we win?” The sad part is that it made us grow more distant since I felt I couldn’t share any of my relationship milestones with her out of fear that all she would try to do is outdo me.