When I ran for my high school cross country team, my best times were never during practice (or even during time trials). My best times were always during the races. No matter how hard I trained, no matter how I motivated myself, no matter what my coach said to me, I always performed differently during a meet.
This especially played out in the last one or two minutes of the race. No matter how hard I had pushed during the last three miles, I always kicked it into high gear when the finish line was in sight. Even if I’d felt completely spent throughout the entire race, even if I’d given it everything I had, I somehow found the energy in that last minute to sprint to pick off at least one or two more competitors.
The competition of the race called me higher. Seeing the girl running beside me (or, more frustratingly, just in front of me) made me run faster. Approaching the finish line boosted my adrenaline and helped me to perform better.
There’s something so neat about this effect of competition on our performance. If you’re an athlete, I'm sure you’ve experienced something similar. Maybe it’s a teammate who is near your same skill level, your competitive natures driving you both to perform better. Maybe it’s that moment before the gun goes off when you look to your left and to your right and see the competition and say, “I can run faster. I can beat them.”
This type of competition is fun and invigorating. But there’s another type of competition that I see, especially among women, that has a noticeably different effect. It’s the type of competition that leads to rivalry, jealousy, and degradation.
If you’re not experiencing this now, I'm sure you’re familiar with it from your middle and high school days. The girls who put other girls down to make themselves feel superior. The rivalries between friend groups that led to contention, conflict, and straight-up bullying. This jealousy and in-fighting between girls that grows into a demoralizing competitive nature between women.
You see, there’s a difference between competition that makes you work harder, go higher, push harder… and the kind of competition that leads you to tear others down on the way there. And as women especially we have to be so careful to avoid this.
Because her win doesn’t necessarily mean your loss. Her victory doesn’t mean your failure.
Women, let’s help each other to succeed—because when one of us succeeds we all do. Let’s pursue working together rather than working against each other. Let’s trade criticism for community. Let’s lift each other up, call each other higher, and help each other to be our best. Let’s pursue the type of competition that causes us all to perform better rather than to knock each other down before we’re even off the blocks. Let’s be women who love, support, and champion other women.