the secret competition

When I played hockey and netball in high school, I was very vocal, encouraging to my team and scary aggressive to our opposition.

In board games, I oscillate between quietly strategising, flying under the radar to sniper my opponents, to wild shouting, jeering and generally attempting to demoralise anyone against me. Just the other week I was playing a console trivia game with my husband and a couple of our friends. Everyone else just went with the generic character names for their avatar, but I insisted on wasting time selecting every letter of my name in full because "I want to see my name in lights when I win". (After a nail-biting spell at the bottom of the leaderboard (with Mat taunting and laughing at me "...maybe they'll still put your name in lights out of pity?" I came back to win the game! BOOYAH!)

Post school, post my sporting years, outside of all those tangible things like awards and pats on the back all I have now is an undercurrent of secret competition with my friends. Everytime a friend acheives something or grows in some way, it frustrates me and makes me want to acheive more in my own life. My secret competition feels like envy, but it also drives me to be better, it makes me push harder, which are good things. And yet I feel embarrassed to admit it, I feel exposed and a little ashamed.

But why should I be? If it's not turning into a dark, bubbling hatred for my friends. If I'm not eating my heart out every time they come beaming with good news?

Why do we hide the fact that we secretly compare and rate ourselves against the people that we love? No, you can't admit that, because the only question that can follow such an admission is: Well, how DO you rate you against me? (What's worse admitting that they are "winning" or declaring that you're "better" than them?)

Maybe it's got something to do with not wanting to seem unhappy with an area of your life. At times the feeling like you're "losing" can be debilitating - if I think I'm just going to lose I won't want to try anymore - then I can feign sexy, mysterious nonchalance. By the way, why are aloof people so damn sexy and cool? Damn them and their steamy lack of concern... Maybe their just better at pretending they don't care than I am?

Maybe it's got to do with not wanting to come across as too ambitious and aggressive, which apparently is not very attractive behaviour (particularly for a lady). But why isn't it? Guys seem to openly compete with each other in everything - my market research of one (Mat) has revealed that he and his friends all know, who is the strongest, fastest, most disciplined, most fearless and so on. I never have these kind of conversations with girlfriends!

Are you competitive? Do you feel embarrassed about it? Do you hide it? Why is that?


  1. Oh friend... SO understand. Sometimes you are my secret competioner-person... Like, i see you write amazingly awe-inspired stuff, and i kick myself in the butt, and tell myself to get on with it, and write my own awe-inspiring stuff (awe-inspired by yours truly)... Because you are, without a doubt, simple, awe-inspiring. :) xx

  2. Loz, what a lovely thing to say! I have to admit...ditto ;)

  3. I can be competitive and I think all girls do this. It does get me everytime a friend of mine gets ahead and it does make the fire in me burn hotter--To try to accomplish more. I don't know why--I don't dislike them. They are there for me when I need them and I am there for them when they need me. As I have gotten older, I have gotten better at redirecting the dark cloud and just make into more of motivation than disliking that person for their moment of glory.
    I like this post!

  4. I get a competitive vibe with some other mamas from time to time. I don't like it. I feel jittery and on edge and weird, like I have to prove myself. So I try and back off and away. Because when I try and engage in conversations and then friendships, it most often ends up in a train wreck or huge misunderstanding of some sort.

    But honestly, I don't consider myself competitive in the least, except with my own self. But my husband has said that he thinks I am. (sigh)

  5. LOL, that's awesome! The Man and I play chess a lot...I've won once and let me tell you, I rubbed that in for days!! He was ever so pissed. tee-hee!

    I'm not very competitive though. I like playing games and I'm more competitive with myself than anyone. I impose personal challenges. I WILL WIN!!

  6. Hm, I'm only competitive when I'm competing -- like playing games or entering a contest. I have never had a sense of competition with friends or family members, but that might be because my path is so different from most of theirs that there are really no comparisons to be made.

  7. Thanks Christine. - You are using the competition for good and not evil... Well done!

    Terresa - I've heard about the secret hierarchy of mums (I'm not one myself, so I'll have to wait and see!) I think some personalities have the tendancy to judge and look down on others, which is not fun. I hope that I never become one of those people! Although I'm sure when I do have a baby, that kid will be the smartest, most beautiful and talented genius ever to grace the planet...

  8. Hannah - How do you compete with yourself? I tend to lose interest if I don't have an external bench mark to measure up to. Maybe it's a flaw on my part, but I find it helps me to move forward. I remember a girl I went to university with who went to a school where their work was never given a grade. She loved it and did well at university where her work was graded. I could NOT understand that, I am so entrenched in working to achieve a higher grade than someone else!

    Melissa - I understand you saying that there are no comparisons to be made. There are loads of people that I don't compare myself to. But then there are loads of people whose lives inspire and challenge me to push harder, regardless of how different their path is.