I grew up with a sister, who is less than two years younger than me, it could have been very easy to view her as my competition. But my parents went out of their way to let us know that we were to support each other; because, at the end of the day, we were all each other had. With my mother, grandmother, aunts, and playing team sports with other girls, I quickly understood that a similar sistership was meant to be extended to all women.
But not every girl turned woman received this same message.
We all have a friend or two who seems to be in secret (not so secret), unspoken competition with us. They’re the type of girl or woman who tries (and often fails) to hide her disdain any time you tell them something good happened in your life but hangs on every syllable as you’re detailing your misfortune. She’ll go out of her way to tell you how many men find her attractive and always seems to find a way to one-up you.
Unfortunately and unnecessarily, competition among women is bred in us from childhood. We’re taught to be attractive and appealing to get the attention of men. And while that type of messaging is problematic on its own, it becomes particularly troublesome when you realize you’re not the only woman vying for the attention of the few men in your social circle.
I noticed this behavior started early on in my friendships, my sister’s and mother’s friendships etc. Every woman I know has a similar story. In the past few days alone, the theme of competition and jealousy has come up quite a few times. In an attempt to address the problem, I’m going to highlight a few of these instances from the experiences of myself, friends and associates and ask you if you’ve experienced something similar; and which of these real life scenarios would cause you to end the friendship.
Our elementary school was a bit experimental for the time. It was a year-round school that focused on innovative teaching methods and didn’t issue letter grades. Instead, there were categories. The academic skills for that particular grade were listed on the left-hand side and five categories were listed on the right. There was Emergent, Developing, Exceptional, Proficient and Fluent. Now, it should be noted that no one I ever knew received fluent marks. To receive fluent, as the name suggests, means that you have mastered the skill, nearly to the point of complete understanding. Fluent, in every category would have likely meant that you were ready to be promoted to the next grade, that very day. So, in fifth grade, when we got our report cards, I called my best friend Patrice to tell her the news and ask if she’d received hers as well. I told her that I had mostly proficients and a few exceptionals. I will never forget her response.
“Girl, when I saw my report card, I cried.”
Assuming the worst, I asked, “Why was it bad?”
“No girl, it was so good! I got all Fluents.”
I knew immediately that she was lying and after giving her a second or two to tell me that she was joking, I simply said,
Funny thing though, when it was my turn to be celebrated for my academic achievements, she didn’t offer the same support. In seventh grade, we had an academic awards ceremony to recognize the students who had excelled throughout the school year. In front of the entire school, my name was called at least five times with awards for attendance, citizenship, honor roll and high honor roll. Truth be told, I was proud of myself but also a bit embarrassed to be standing up in front of the entire school. Even though it was awkward, I knew that the people who knew me would appreciate and celebrate my accomplishments.
But that wasn’t the case.
At the end of the day, a friend came up to me and told me that every time my name was called, Patrice never clapped for me, not once.
I was disappointed to hear that Patrice wasn’t riding for me like I felt she should have been. Still, we had been friends for so long, I just figured that she was too distracted to clap…all five times.
That was still my girl. We were always seen together. In between classes, we’d walk together, chatting about which teacher had gotten on our nerves. We ate lunch together, catching up on the latest gossip and talking about who liked who. We were inseparable. People often said our names like they were one. “PatriceandVeronica.” And while I thought we both liked it that way, Patrice eventually let me know that she didn’t care for the association. One day, at lunch, she was unusually quiet and aloof.
I asked her what was wrong and she suddenly blurted,
“You know I just don’t understand the reason why when we’re walking down the hallways together, people always speak to you first.”
Honestly, it wasn’t something I’d noticed.
“Well, what does it matter if they both speak to us?”
“I just don’t like feeling like your sidekick.”
I shrugged, not exactly sure how I was supposed to change the behavior of other people.
For reasons I still don’t understand today, she and I didn’t hang out with each other for the rest of the week.