Catfight! Reframing the Conversation Around Competition and Comparison Among Women.

Part 1 of 5.

I could spew data for days about competition among women. We could talk about all of the reasons why women see competition negatively, why when we compete with each other it’s seen as catty, how hostile competition is a mask for insecurity, and on and on and on. I could waste a bunch of time with the data but it would only reinforce what we already know.

Competition is seen negatively by most women and when we compete it’s seen as catty by everyone else around us. And these realities around competition and how women perceive it starts a at a very young age.

Instead, I’d rather spend my time talking about how we can change the conversation around competition and comparison. I’d rather talk about how we can instill healthy ideas of competition in girls and women. I’d rather solve problems instead of ruminating over them.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be highlighting, in-depth, the five things we can do to change the conversation around competition and comparison as part of my advocacy work for the Stand Beside Her Movement. One-by-one, we’ll unpack the problem and identify what we can do both individually and collectively to shift the conversation around competition.

Changing the Conversation Around Competition:

  • One: Live More Honestly
  • Two: Focus on Personal Goals
  • Three: Check Yourself
  • Four: Support Each Other
  • Five: Speak Up and Out

Let’s start this week with number One: Live More Honestly.

One: Live More Honestly

The rise of social media exposure at a younger and younger age has amplified the issue of comparison among women and girls. We display our “highlight reel” instead of our struggles, failures, and less-than-perfect selves. Do I post pictures of my kids at their cutest, me at my skinniest [looking], and the fabulous moments of my life more often than the photos of me looking frumpy, with a messy house and dirty kids? Yes. Should I? Maybe and maybe not. This isn’t about what you post on social media and it IS about what you post on social media – at the same time.

Changing the conversation around competition and comparison among women and girls requires us to live more honestly.

We have to live more honestly and we have to share our whole story more openly. I look at some professional women and think, “Man I wish I was at their level. I wish I had what they have.” What I don’t see, is what it took for them to get there – the struggles, the tears, the grit, the sacrifice. I only see the outcome.

It’s like a before and after photo of a weight loss journey. We look at these side-by-side photos and can visually recognize the results. We see the outcome of the hard work, but what we don’t see is what happened in-between those two photos for that individual to get there. As it turns out, what happens in the space between those two pictures is what is truly important to understand – not just the outcome. If we did know, it would likely make the success even more impressive.

The path to success (however we personally define it) is messy, complicated, and hard. We have to be more honest about that. We can’t just show the before and after “photos” – it gives people incomplete data. The space between where we started and our success is what is most important to openly share.

We can strive for what other women have. We can desire to be like other women, too, but what we can’t do is compare ourselves or our journeys to partial data. When we live more honestly it helps women and girls see that the “dream” is attainable, but it’s hard work. It doesn’t come easy or naturally – and anyone who says it does…well I call BS.

I’m certain that women look at my career and what I have achieved and want it. I have a cool job and I’ve had a ton of really cool experiences. They might be chasing a similar dream to me. What I haven’t always done a great job of was sharing the sacrifices, the struggles, the mistakes, the hard work, and the grit it has taken me to get here. I don’t talk openly about the important friendships that withered away while I was chasing a career. I don’t talk about the birthday parties, the funerals, the weddings, and the important life moments I “passed” on to say “yes” to work. I don’t talk about the loneliness I felt. I don’t talk about the failures and what I learned from them.

Yet, had I shared this part of my journey more openly, I hypothesize that it would be less about “beating me” and more about learning from my experiences. It would be less about getting to MY outcome and more about getting to their own. It would be less about beating me and more about all of us winning. It would be less about competing with each other and more about helping each other succeed.

Now What?

So what do we do with this? Here’s some ideas to get started now.

  • Be intentional about what you put online – I know you’ve likely heard that 1,000,000 times, however we have to consider the precedent we’re setting for other woman. Don’t be afraid to share the less-than-perfect parts of your stories more publicly. It allows others to avoid your mistakes or navigate difficulties with more ease.
  • Ask other woman about their challenges – We all have them and most women will share that stuff when asked one-on-one. Don’t be afraid to ask women to share the struggles and challenges they faced on their journey to success.
  • Travel your own path“One who walks in another’s path, leaves no footprints.” You have to travel your own path, one that is your own. Make decisions for you and the outcome you’re chasing.
  • Share it – At every opportunity, pass along the wisdom you’ve gained. Things are unnecessarily competitive when women don’t openly share the formula to success. Don’t hoard the lessons, share them.

In retrospect, throughout much of my early career, I was so focused on making sure it looked like I had it all figured out, that I was qualified, confident, and had everything “under control”. That hasn’t helped a single woman who’s come after me. Living more honestly and sharing our journey more openly allows us to begin to shift the competition and comparison that often rears its ugly head while we’re chasing our dreams. We have to share more openly, live more honestly, and give advice more freely to end the unhealthy competition. Doing so more than anything, helps the women who come behind us succeed – and succeed more authentically.

Learn more about the movement inspiring girls and women to shut down unhealthy comparison and competition called Stand Beside Her by visiting http://www.standbesideher.org/ . I’m proud to support and advocate for this movement.

until we break more glass…