We don’t do it intentionally. At least, I hope we don’t. But sometimes as women, we find ourselves competing with our girlfriends. Not that we’re racing to some invisible rite of passage type of finish line (first one to the altar gets bragging rights for life!). This competition is more about an unspoken comparison. If we’re not careful, trying to figure out where our lives stack up by comparing it to the lives of our girlfriends can lead to jealousy. The unhealthy kind.
It can range from the petty – Damn, her nail polish game is on point today! Why didn’t I think of putting those colors together? – to the more consequential – Why can’t I be as forgiving as she is? What’s wrong with me? It’s a definite the-grass-is-greener complex and if we’re in tune with our deeper selves, we can recognize that this comparison game is really our inner monolog talking. It’s that little voice in our head that likes to critique our flaws and shortcomings to the nth degree.
It’s not that we’re not happy for our friends when they’re on the up and up. We don’t secretly hope for their demise ‘cause, well, then we wouldn’t exactly be friends, would we? We know the blood, sweat and tears they put into getting that promotion, maintaining their marriage, and scrimping and saving for that dream vacation. We were there during the process, after all, and if we’re halfway decent friends, we were supportive along the way.
But if we long for some of the same things in our own lives and come up empty-handed, we can’t help but compare. It’s easy to forget their long, work-filled road when all we want is to be where we want to be, and with a quickness. We respect and admire our friends, after all, but assume we should always be on equal footing. That’s not exactly how things work in the real world. We’re individuals on our own unique paths, making our own unique choices. The same can be said for our friends. Therefore, comparing situations is futile. It can lead to unnecessary stress, tension, and unhappiness.
Maybe the source of this competitive vibe can be blamed on living in a fast-paced, get-everything-now, me, me, me society. Perhaps we’re still reliving old pain we’ve never fully healed from – the abusive ex we let destroy our self-esteem, the parent we were never good enough for. These things have a way of interfering with our everyday lives and affecting our most treasured relationships years later. But no matter the circumstance, when we compare ourselves to our friends, we fall into a woe-is-me attitude and not only is that tiring, but it’s also played out.
It’s enough that as Black women, we are constantly pitted against one another in the media. We’re perceived as difficult, argumentative, demanding, cat-fighting, back-stabbing…I’ll stop there. None of us want to bring that kind of drama and chaos into our personal lives–we’d much rather watch it on TV. I’m not suggesting that comparing ourselves to our friends will send us down some desperate, real, or whatever kind of housewife path. I’m simply acknowledging that friendship, real friendship, isn’t a competition. If we can be better friends to ourselves, we can in turn be better to our friends.
Speaking for myself, I know my tendency to compete with my girlfriends comes from feelings of inadequacy. That feeling had been triggered at times when friends succeeded in one way or another. I would feel as if, welp, she got the last helping of goodness. Since there’s none left for me, I might as well quit while I’m ahead. Where’s Iyanla to fix my life when I need her?
I was happy for my friends, no doubt, but wanted a sort of success by association. Ludicrous, I know. Before long, I was mad at friends for simply being their brilliant selves. What kind of sense does that make? And if I was in a funky rut – forget about it. I expected my friends to be stuck down in the dumps with me, too. That’s hardly fair or sensible.
Instead of wasting time feeling sorry for myself, I now choose to see my beautiful, thriving, dust yourself off and try again friends as examples of the greatness I can and will achieve. They inspire me to be my best self, not compare my worth and value to their own fulfillment.