“I’LL HAVE WHAT SHE’S HAVING”
Put your game face on, girls. We’re here to tell you why competition isn’t always a bad thing.
We’re all for friendly female competition.
“When guys compete, it’s overt. When girls compete, it’s art.” ‘90s teen flick Drive Me
Crazy was on to something. Protagonist Nicole Maris (Melissa Joan Hart) was in the middle of yet another on-again, off-again power play with her frenemy slash best friend Alicia. Battling it out for the attentions of the all-star basketball player or Nicole’s hottie neighbor Chase Hammond (Adrian Grenier) did not involve catfights, name-calling or fisticuffs. Instead, the high school seniors battled it out with their wits, covert subterfuge and charm, giving just a tiny bit of credence to the clichés that come with women in competition.
Take the aging actress versus onscreen ingénue in the 1950 movie All About
Eve and shudder at the mere idea of hashing it out with Bette Davis. Witness rivalry turn dark and sordid in the ‘80s cult classic
Heathers. Fast forward to the early aughts and see Lindsay Lohan exact revenge on Regina George and The Plastics. Run through your R&B playlist on Spotify and listen to Monica and Brandy claim “The Boy is Mine” or Lucy Pearl ward off scragglers with “Don’t Mess with My Man.” And see the cesspool of repressed resentment among upper class women in the coastal town of Monterey in Big Little Lies.
The trope that pits one woman against the other isn’t going away anytime soon. And while competition, in general, is in no way gender specific, peo- ple have, time and again, documented, fictionalized, glorified, and even attempted to normalize female rivalry. Perhaps because Drive Me Crazy did have a point—the maneuvers and duplicity that come with female competition is art in that it can be fascinating, grotesque, polarizing, and mystifying to watch and live out.
Get Your Head out of the Gutter
It’s one thing to see all the ugliness unfold in fiction, it’s another to witness it IRL. In a perfect world, females uplift and support each other, everyone inhabiting a utopian love-filled bubble. It is perverse to see women tear each other down, and even more vicious to experience a sense of schadenfreude when it happens. But we as humans are imperfect, and so is the world we live in. And competition does exist and can get ugly.
That said, we don’t have to turn every little battle into a dramatic cliffhanger. Wanting to best someone in the workplace or even in a close-knit friend
group doesn’t have to turn dirty. We can instead try to accept the reality of competition (female-centric and otherwise) and be better people for it. It’s possible to take the art that lives and breathes in rivalry and put a more positive, more optimistic spin on it.
Mind Your own Backyard
But where does the irre- pressible need to compete with others start? Sometimes, competition is instigated by external factors—a bully taunting you in grade school can, decades later, have you wanting to prove yourself amidst hapless co-workers. Parents constantly comparing you and your sister growing up, for example, can harness deep scars that may result in being extra and unnecessarily competitive with others years later.
Other times, the cause of being ultra competitive can rise from an internal kind of hurt. Feeling like your best friend is replacing you for a shinier, newer, cooler acquaintance (check out the bridal shower speech scene in the comedy Bridesmaids) can push you to one-up your game. Meeting your ex’s new girlfriend or—gasp— wife can urge you to hit the gym seven days a week, without fail, trying to beat your personal best (even if your ex isn’t watching).
The ugly side of competition—the one that’s usually written about, made into movies, or turned into songs—should not necessarily be shunned because it’s ugly. The shadow of
We can instead try to accept the reality of competition and be better people for it.
competition should be confronted and looked at because it can indicate a deeper void at your core. Reeling people into your own story or drama by competing with them may be a reflection of hurt or pain that has nothing to do with the other person at all.
It is in this regard that competition can be a positive thing. If we’re self-aware enough to catch ourselves pitting an unknowing enemy against us, we can redirect ourselves to our own issues and figure out how to clean things up.
Know when not to stoop
Alternatively, when it’s a nagging need to compete with someone else for the sheer pleasure of coming out The Winner, it’s important to recognize your boundaries. Is this rivalry—whether unrequited or mutual— actually about something that really matters in the long run? Are you trying to best your annoying coworker because you know your boss needs to finally pay attention to the substantial work you’re bringing, or are you spinning a web of endless drama because your ego needs a pat on the back?
Pettiness is never pretty, most especially when it comes to hashing it out for a man’s attentions. Think back to Jane Austen heroine Emma (or Clueless’s Cher Horowitz), who was so used to being the center of attention that she practically got slammed when she found out another, potentially ‘better’ person was making a beeline for the object of her affection. Neither Emma nor Cher stooped, and instead tried to do a 180°, shifting from entitled brat to aspiring humanitarian.
Give Competition a Good name
So how can you make like Emma and turn things around? Everything starts with good intentions. If you compete from a place that aims to better yourself rather than best someone else, you know you’re in the right place. Make whatever rivalry you’ve got going all about becoming a better person and whatever the outcome is, you’ve already come out the winner. ➤ Compete as equals. Recognize the merits of your “competition” and allow her bright spots to shine light on what you can improve about yourself. Play within fair and even grounds instead of cutting corners, manipulating your connections, or twisting truths just to get ahead. Nobody loves a bully. Ever.
➤ Compete at craft. Make it about your abilities rather than your character.
Trabaho lang. Aim to crush the common belief that women can’t operate without getting their feelings involved and show that you can be the ultimate professional even in a situation that has you fully and wholly invested. ➤ Ensure that the compe
tition you’re in is valid. Give yourself a really good talking to and assess whether this is a petty issue that doesn’t deserve anyone’s time, or whether it’s actually a serious matter. Go back to your intention. Are you trying to surpass a social media influencer’s number of followers because you hate her guts? Or are you trying to raise the numbers to build brand awareness and actually increase sales? There’s a
huge difference between the two.
➤ Do it for yourself. Make competition all about reaching your personal best, and everything else that’s unimportant falls by the wayside. Instead of constantly comparing yourself with others, bring about positivity by tracking the changes you’ve seen in yourself. Putting the focus back on you and your gains, rather than on someone else and how their existence validates your losses, can turn things around.
Keep Yourself in CHECK
When all is said and done, you want whatever rivalry, competition or battle you’re in to yield a better, healthier sense of self-worth. Competition may have you involving others, but ultimately, how you compete and why will always boil down to you. Play fair, play wisely, and play to have fun, and no matter what happens, you’ll emerge from all of this a champ.
Everything starts with good intentions.