In our lives, we all run across people who wish to compete against those they call friends. I have had many of those friends in my life. I remember feeling the competition between my friends when I hit high school. It was a strange feeling and one I never really liked but innately understood.
The first time I realized I was in competition with a friend was over a couple of guys. I overheard the guys talking about liking the girl with the shiny blond hair and big boobs. I was the gawky one with no boobs. So, I was in second place or last place, depending on how you want to look at it. There were only two of us, in the eyes of those guys. It was a disconcerting feeling, being in last place behind my friend.
Claire is already experiencing the strangeness of competition between friends. She knows it, and her eyes are wide open. There is no pretense from one of her friends about her competitiveness with Claire. This friend told Claire that her goal is to be faster than Claire in every swimming event…that’s her goal ~ to beat Claire.
This a good teaching point for me with Claire. There will always be competition between friends. Most of the time, the competition is friendly and pushes you to be a better person. As long as it stays above board and is not sneaky and back-stabbing, competition between friends is a valuable and necessary part of life.
I think guys have it more simply, though. The competitiveness between guys is conspicuous. For the most part, they don’t try to hide their desire to be better than their friends. Zach learned early on to pick someone better, faster, stronger, and say, “See that guy over there? I’m gonna be better than him someday.” And he pushed himself harder and harder to be better. Zach was, and is, still above board about his desire to get better and push himself just a little harder to be the best he can be. I respect the way guys can be so honest about their desire to be number one.
I think girls try, sometimes too hard, to be agreeable. But our innate desire to win comes out. I don’t think girls are taught to properly work through this contradiction. At least I wasn’t. I think it causes many internal conflicts for girls…how can I be pleasant and ladylike but still win? I think it is why girls go into covert mode… “I’ll pretend to be nice and be your friend, but my goal really is to make myself look soooooo much better than you.” I have to respect Claire’s friend…she came right out and told Claire her goal was to beat her. It’s above board, and Claire can do with it what she wants. She can take it as a challenge to push herself harder against her friend or take it as a personal challenge to beat her own times. And she can choose to let it go and try something else. It’s Claire’s choice, but it’s my responsibility to make sure Claire can deal with competitive friends in a positive and above-board way. I would much rather have Claire tell her friends her goals than to have her hide behind a facade of niceness and falsity. Girls can be nice and kind, but they can also be taught to be winners in the most positive way. I would prefer Claire be labeled as competitive than to be labeled a bitch for being sneaky and underhanded in dealing with friends.
I think competition is a more challenging path for girls because of the conflicting emotions competition causes. I see it in my own tennis game. I want to be friendly and liked, so I am conflicted about beating my opponent. It’s a total head game for me. Stan gets so frustrated by my stories coming off the court. He will ask, “Why do you keep telling your opponent ‘nice shot?’ It just gives them more ammo against you so they can win.” It goes against my grain not to be pleasant and compliment good shots, but it also goes against my grain to lose…so it’s a conflict I’m still dealing with at 42. Claire has a lot of learning ahead. I hope she keeps on being a good friend while pushing herself to be the best student and athlete she can be.
Oh, for the love of Claire…