Women have a reputation for being a bit catty with other women.
I know, this is nothing new to you.
But what most women don't realize is just WHY women compete with each other in this weird way. What I've noticed though is that they also try to cooperate and help each other at almost the same time.
Women are not typically thought of as competitive, while men are known to have a competitive streak a mile wide.
However, it’s usually in a very specific environment that men do this competing. It's integrated in our lives from day to day.
For a lot of guys, the competitive side is confined to sports and certain kinds of gaming.
This is an interesting notion because there’s actually a bit of a paradox here. Women are actually less competitive with each other when they’re in social situations or outside of the workplace.
So how do we reconcile this?
Carlos Cavallo, Dating and Attraction Adviser
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Well, consider that competition is encouraged in guys. Boys are encouraged to compete to see who is better at something, but this same competition is often seen as undesirable in girls.
With men, there’s team spirit and that camaraderie that creates a certain cement that bonds guys together when competition is necessary. Men are pretty comfortable with the concept of competition, and they often see winning as being a necessary part of the game.
Men don’t usually feel too bad for their opponent after they’ve scored a victory, and they’re still able to maintain that friendship with those that they’ve competed against. If you’ve ever witnessed any prize fights or MMA fights, you'll note how quickly they embrace and get past the competition when it's over.
Women, on the other hand, learn that they’re not supposed to be very competitive or triumph over another woman or even another man at their expense.
A woman’s competitiveness usually can’t be shared openly or even jokingly around other people.
What could have actually been a healthy competition among women becomes a hidden feeling of envy and desire for the other person to fail.
Then of course, we have the emotions that come after that - which are guilt and shame.
Women are thought of as tuned-in and sensitive to other people’s feelings, which is usually the case. But what happens is it's easy to project our own insecurities and our own feelings about another person.
And then we feel bad or guilty about our own successes in life because we start to think of how it feels for another person to witness it.
So women end up learning how to feel guilty for feeling happy and being successful, interpreting their own success as being hurtful to their friend.
So what do they do?
Well, many women will hide their accomplishments and hide their successes from any of their female friends.
For example, if you were to become successful at a diet or a particular exercise regimen and you managed to lose a few pounds, would you be willing to share that with your friends?
You’d feel guilty about talking about that at first because your success somehow "feels bad" to the other women, and you don’t want to make them feel those negative emotions.
In fact, it can even go so far as to enable some self-sabotaging behaviors. For example, eating some high calorie guilty foods when you don’t really want to.
After all, when you’re with a friend who’s having troubles of her own with dieting and keeping her weight down, you feel obligated in some way to go along with her - just to make her feel better.
The funny thing is that women don’t feel this way when they’re around men because they know that men have a different kind of competitive environment and a competitive social structure.
Very often, a woman doesn’t have any problem being competitive with a guy because she knows she doesn’t have to suffer the same consequences for her behavior as if she were with other women.
Women don’t usually perceive guys as being as vulnerable and sensitive as women. Men are also not as threatened by success, so women feel like they’re liberated from worrying about his feelings.
And again most women seek approval from men in many situations, and they will rely on guys to validate her desirability.
This dynamic of making yourself look less threatening or to be more appealing to other people is called "diminishing." You diminish your own accomplishments, you diminish your own successes simply to make yourself look more acceptable to other people - especially other women.
One of the unhealthy cycles that women can get into is that dependency on other people to help maintain her feelings of self-esteem and to create that feeling of positive self-worth.
What cycle does is it creates a bit of a paradox for her.
It holds her back from embracing and using her own particular skills and abilities to create the success she really wants because she’s held back by her internal conflict over how other people will feel about her and how they’ll react to her.
Will they ostracize her? Or will they call her a bitch behind her back?
It also undermines and sabotages her trust of the power that other women have.
When she’s uncomfortable with her own power, she’s going to go back and forth between holding herself back to protect her female friend and then feeling mistrustful and feeling like she’s helpless facing another woman’s potential power.
A really good example of this is when there’s a situation of an affair in a marriage where the man has an affair with another woman.
The wife will very often displace her anger and her feelings of betrayal and point them at the other woman. More than she will actually blame her own husband.
So she’ll hold the other woman more responsible and accountable for the affair. She’ll see men as being helpless to withstand these devious women that lure men in with their wiles.
So what are some things you can do about this?
First off, you want to make sure that your own self-worth and self-confidence is being attended to.
You have to make sure how you feel about yourself is a priority in your life. You’ve got to focus on it, and make sure it’s something that you’re always working on.
Because, quite frankly, no one else will help you with that. Other people are too busy with their own issues to help see to it you’re feeling good about yourself.
You’ll also need to make sure that your own good fortune, your own happiness and your successes, can be used to help other people. In this way, your own success becomes a source of positively enabling yourself. You didn't succeed at someone else's expense, but to help them.
This is a very important part of relationships with men because this boundary very often gets in the way of healthy relationship.
All too often I coach women who feel like they can’t be happy when their partner or their boyfriend is unhappy. It’s very difficult for women because they feel somehow responsible for his state, or that they have to do something to change it.
It’s either that nurturing edge or the accountability she has within the relationship.
So let go of the feeling of responsibility for his state or emotions, and realize that it's perfectly fine for you to have a happy day when he's glum, or the opposite.
Anything else becomes what they used to call "co-dependence" where the boundaries between people become unclear - and unhealthy.
Typically you think of things like violence, sometimes you think of aggressiveness.
You’re probably also going to think of the word “male” or “man.” You’re going to associate those things including competitiveness with guys.
It's only natural.
Competition is attributed to maleness and masculinity. We usually think of these traits as being directed at other guys.
All these things happen among men: We’re competitive with other men.
It’s even been noted in studies that this happens as primarily a reproduction instinct. We have competition among guys to prove who is the Alpha male, the guy that’s on top, the guy that you should be mating with.
However, there have been several studies in recent years that have shown convincingly that this view that we hold, this traditional view of women, as being very passive and not competing - is actually dead wrong.
It actually turns out that women are engaged in very frequent competition with not only other women, but even men. And - no surprise here - that women also compete to find a good mate.
Of course, the competition is in the areas that are attractive to the opposite sex.
These competitive areas are divided into two types.
This is where you’re pumping yourself up, making yourself look better to a potential mate.
So for guys, what do we do? We compete over the areas that would promote our physical abilities, our strength, our competitiveness - and in social status.
Which, of course, is a very masculine trait that’s very favored by women.
Women tend to promote things like their youth and their physical attractiveness. Again, these are areas that are favored by guys.
Men try to bring down their rivals by either insulting or putting down their economic and their physical strength.
Women will criticize the age, the appearance, and the character of other women.
This intrasexual competition, which is what it's called, is based around this thing called “mate manipulation.”
I’ll give you an example of this in the sexual arena. Let’s say your boyfriend comes to visit you at your workplace pretty frequently, and then there’s a very attractive and available coworker in your office in a cubicle very close to you.
Now, what will you probably be motivated to do in this situation?
You’re going to be motivated to not ask your boyfriend to come visit you at work anymore. You don’t want him seeing that other woman!
You don’t want him exposed to the competition or another woman that he might run off into the sunset with. (Even if it is extremely unlikely.)
So competitor manipulation is kind of a crazy thing if you really think about it.
For example, in that same situation, you’ll probably even say something bad about that woman in an effort to hurt her in his eyes. Lower her value.
Let’s say your boyfriend does show up at work and meets your attractive coworker. And maybe you know something negative about her.
What do you think you’re going to do? You’re more likely to share that with your boyfriend in an attempt to defuse or lower his possible interest in her.
Sometimes, yes, it’s true, women will even lie about these situations in order to gain the upper hand. Maybe saying something about a sexually transmitted disease to impugn her sexuality and make her seem more promiscuous.
Oh, yeah. It happens.
This scenario of the boyfriend and other woman is veiled aggression. This is where women hide behind very clever verbal manipulation, or possibly under the cover of a group.
Women may try to stay anonymous rather than come into some kind of confrontation. So she does it through her social wiles and her social skills.
In other words, they don’t want any woman to stand out above the rest because she will become the "prize" of the group. Any remarkably powerful or beautiful woman is typically held back in a lot of ways so that she doesn't escape the social gravity of the group.
In extreme cases of female aggression, women actually guard against possible competitors by social exclusion or ostracizing.
For example, if a really attractive woman shows up and she’s brand new to the neighborhood or maybe in your exercise club or social area, many of the women will simply turn their backs on her.
They'll do this both metaphorically and actually trying to force her out or trying to compel her to ...take her business elsewhere. Go play at another gym, go work in another department.
They’ve even done some pretty interesting scientific studies where they took t-shirts from younger women, who are ovulating which had pheromones and other kinds of wonderful body chemicals in them and they had other women smell those shirts.
I know it sounds kind of gross, but what happened was that with the women who smelled the shirts, her testosterone levels actually jumped up. Presumably, she's getting ready to compete aggressively for other men.
More attractive women typically receive more hostility and less cooperation from other women because, of course, her presence is going to threaten access to the prized male.
Other studies have shown that women tend to select women as friends who are not threatening to their own relationships. In other words, most women will choose a woman who is less sexually permissive to avoid that stigma of possibly hanging around with a slut who could steal her boyfriend away.
Now, of course, this all creates a very high price for women, not only on a political level, but on a social level and physical level. It creates more stress and it blocks your happiness in so many different ways.
Women are also better at decoding subtle social cues and social signals, and in most cases, a woman’s sense of self-worth is actually based a lot more on her friend’s opinions of her than anything else.
Combining all of these together makes women tend to be much more vulnerable to these forms of indirect aggression.
Well, of course, you want to be aware at all times when you sense this conflict and competition come up. Even if it's only the anxiety.
Awareness is always the first step, so watch out for other women who may not be as aware as you and know how to contain the influence these women have within your social circle.
Always be on the lookout for anything that lowers your sense of self-worth, whatever it might be.
Always work on your own feelings of self-worth, and again keep the awareness level high so you don’t fall victim to other forms of female aggression and competitiveness, whether it’s in the workplace, your social circle or in the dating marketplace.
One of the best ways you can avoid competing is to know your stuff when it comes to dating guys. When you understand the male mind, you’re going to understand how to meet his needs, how to meet your own needs, and how to make those needs coexist that you have a beautiful relationship together.
A great way to know him better is by reading his signals. You see, men don't actually give off "mixed" signals; you just need to read them correctly to know what's going on in that head of his.
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