Girl feeling fully energized
I liked racing the barrio boys on my bike when I was 9, the competitive energy that you can feel in our spindle swarm. It was easy to become a stark and able girl. Also, someone who refused to play in gender stereotypes because of this early exposition.
Discovering my best writing from workshops many years later while I was still at college was a wake-up call. I realized I was classified and measured in my essays according to others’ work. I certainly wanted an excellent grade and praise, but I wanted to mostly prove to myself that I could write and exceed my expectations.
Concurrence brings to me the best. It’s a hunger that drives me into and when I don’t think I can give anything. I am acutely conscious of the restrictions I have set myself when I compete. Am I going to want to win? Naturally, however, first and foremost, I compete against myself. And competitive energy is a source I can go back to again and again – growing, inspiring, and motivating if I most need it.
In my role as a woman, I have learned some risks that are very different from a cycle crash or skinned knee to be perceived as competitive. When I was a girl, it looked natural to be a competitive girl. And when we were supposed to push one another, it was appropriate to be competitive at school. But apart from that, my competitive energy – and the idea of competing women in general – is sometimes conflated with cattiness, inflexibility, or not being a team player.
Play well. Play well. Just be fair. Be fair. Do not be too aggressive. Do not be too aggressive. It can be easier not to compete and to appreciate our competitive nature fully.
In a Harvard Business Review podcast episode, Women At Work, Leah Sheppard says it’s a dual standard. In gender inequality and stereotyping studies, Sheppard, an assistant professor at Carson College, Washington State University.
“We look at men and wait for them to compete. So we’re standardizing that,” she explains. However, instead of being asked to compete, it is the responsibility of women to ensure that other women can also climb the leaf. “So [they are] somehow responsible for any inequality,” says Sheppard, “if they do not do that actively.
Studies, however, show that competitiveness can increase creativity and encourage people to dream, reimagine systems, and feel inspired if positive consequences are at stake. The competitive rewards are higher than gender. Above all, being a team player is not mutually exclusive, nor a competitor. You can win while others want to be successful.
Naturally, it’s like any other act, a balancing act. Too much competitive energy, such as jealousy, or envy, can indicate insecurity. I know it is time to pause and examine what I want if my competitiveness is based on want rather than inspiration. Am I trying to make myself the best version? Or do I make up for my ego being hurt?