Outfit Post: Winner takes all - Women and competition

Yesterday I read Beautifully Invisible's post about why women are (at times) their worst enemy. Her words regarding body shaming, labeling, and the pervasive "us versus them" mentality shook me to my core. Today I'm going to talk about a related issue that is common with every single woman out there. Whether you feel it, or someone feels it against you, no one can deny that it exists.

Competition amongst us.

Age has no bearing. It doesn't matter if you're a little girl ("She has four Barbies; I have to get six") or older woman ("She just got Botox and has a smoother forehead; I have to get a face-lift and look younger than she does.") Or perhaps, "Her blog has more followers than mine does", "She always looks perfect",  "She's so skinny, I could never look like that",   "She gets invited to more events than I do" , "She has more sponsors than I do", "Gosh, I wish I could...."

Gender expert Susan Shapiro Barash interviewed 500 women in the United States on their views regarding competition. Here are some highlights:

90 percent admit they are (or have been) envious and jealous of other women in their lives.
65 percent say they feel that way about their sister or best friend.
80 percent say they have been victims of  another woman’s envy or jealousy.
And 90 percent of women say the toughest workplace competition comes from women, not men.

Don't get me wrong - there are some positives to being competitive. Competition drives us to be better. It encourages creativity. It pushes us to keep improving. It can give us a chance to collaborate and create something better.

Unfortunately, competition between women is rarely displayed in a healthy, positive way. Women are conditioned to be peacemakers, to get along with others and avoid conflict. We are taught that anger, hostility, and jealousy are emotions to be avoided and even feared. Competition is best left to the boys, we're told, with their sports and career climbing and quest for the most attractive partner (which is partially responsible for the higher male mortality rate.) A study by Stanford University economist and guest presenter Muriel Niederle shows that women actively look for ways to avoid conflict and competition, even when they know they deserve to win. So we learn to inhibit and repress our competitive urges. Over time, these feelings build up. What could have been healthy competition becomes a secret feeling of envy and desire for the other to fail - often laced with guilt and shame.

Ultimately, competition results in a feeling of inadequacy. You feel inferior because you don't measure up, and that leads to resentment, anger, and bitterness. When you get into the rut of comparing and competing, you lose who you really are. Even worse, competition pits us against one another. It forces us to each each other as enemies and sabotages intimacy and trust.

One only glance at my history to see the battle I've had with competition. My twenty-year struggle with anorexia and bulimia was largely about competition - to be the thinnest, the "most perfect" anorexic, the most in control over what I ate (and didn't eat.) As long as I was losing weight, I felt powerful over other women. In my starved brain, being the thinnest made me the best. It meant I had won.

I can’t help but wonder if  women are competitive in the blogging and career worlds because they believe the rewards are limited - that there is a maximum amount of success available. That simply isn’t true. There is enough pie for all of us to get a piece, and there’s no need for us to guard our piece viciously, snapping at anyone who comes near it. We all have something of value to offer. Your competition should be your own goals, your own mission, your own values, and what you hope to accomplish. All you can do is try, work hard, and be the best you can be.

I have learned the hard way that you cannot control what successes others find, and you shouldn’t want to. Be happy when others find success. Sure, you can have that blinking moment of jealousy, but let it roll right over you and smile. Know that if another blogger’s found it, that simply means you can to.

Don't judge. Don't compare. Don't belittle people's lives or feelings. When someone acts ugly out of jealousy, it really hurts. It damages relationships, lives, and spirit. And you know that beauty everyone has? When jealousy comes out, the beauty goes away.

What are your thoughts on competition between women? Do you believe we can find a healthy way to be competitive with each other without becoming mean or passive-aggressive? Do you look for ways to avoid competition with other women? Has competition ever affected your relationships with female friends? 

Thrifted Michael Stars top; thrifted vintage skirt; White Mountain sandals; Forever 21 necklace; estate sale clutch; TIKKR watch


  1. This my favourite outfit yet, the electric blue and magenta together, I've never before thought of pairing them up. Love the jewellery too.

  2. This is a timely post for me. I have battled with comparing/competitiveness with other women for as long as I can remember. Fortunately I have been aware of this dark side of my personality for a several years now. I don't want to be the kind of friend who has to compare and compete with others. I want to be the person who cheers for my friends' successes and achievements. It's an ongoing process of learning more about myself though. Being truly happy when someone succeeds requires having a fair amount of self-esteem, which is also something that's been a real struggle my whole life. Thanks for writing about this. I enjoy reading your posts and garnering inspiration from your ensembles. It's all Lovely!

  3. The other night I felt jealous that I didn't get invited to something and decided to not freak out about it, but just go anyway! It felt AWESOME. I don't think I would have done it if I hadn't been two beers into the evening and wearing a killer outfit, but still...I hate when I feel that jealousy pang. It's fun to combat the feeling and take control of a situation and just go for what you want, like it was yours to begin with.

  4. Very well said, Elissa. Competition among women is a phenomenon I experience much less now in my age group (over 50) and my profession (psychotherapy). But as a younger, business-oriented woman, it was sometimes fierce, and very demoralizing. You mention the zero-sum mentality: I would love to teach younger women that there *is* enough success and happiness out there for us. I don't have to lose for another woman to win.

    You look fantastic in hot pink and black!

  5. Wow. This is one of my favorite outfits of yours! But back to the topic at hand... I've always been pretty good about not judging or competing in an unhealthy way with women, but I'm realizing lately that I'm my own worst critic and I compare myself to others secretly. I claim to have healthy body image, yet I secretly stare at better and prettier bloggers and self loathe. It's so sad, and it's not living the example I want to be, so I'm putting a stop to it. In fact, I had written a post about this for Thursday before I even read yours! I'm glad to hear people speaking out on the topic. Thanks. : )

  6. I always enjoy reading your thoughtful posts because it does make me think...we spend so much time and energy comparing ourselves that it's such a waste. We should support one another instead of breaking each other apart and we're strongest when we band together. Thanks for this post. =)

  7. My favorite teacher in college used to say that root of most problems and jealousy was the fact that people think happiness is a limited commodity. If people think happiness is limited than they try to "take" other peoples by upsetting them. In reality there is "enough of the pie (happiness)" for all of us. Great post as always!

  8. I am constantly fighting my competitive urges and it can be exhausting. I have gotten better at it in the past few years, thankfully. I was fiercely competitive in high school and it made me an extremely unhappy individual. College is actually what really calmed me down, teaching me that I don't have to be better than others, I just have to be the best I can be.

    Since getting into blogging it has flared up a bit, but I combat it by constantly telling myself that I am not doing this to be better than others, but to have fun, and because I enjoy it. Of course, I still get jealous when I see others who have more followers than me, or have tons of C/O items, but it passes quickly (most times).

    P.S. That outfit is divine. LOVE the color of that shirt.

  9. Great post. I've been thinking a lot about this recently in terms of blogging jealousy etc. You're damn right that there is room for all of us! I always try to remember someone else's success has no bearing on mine. Sure I get the envy bug every now an then, even with friends & fam but I let it roll. Life's too short to be bitter!

  10. This is such a great and thoughtful post. I think about it at times, when I find myself thinking less-than-kind thoughts I check myself. Am I feeling good? Am I tired? What's going on with me? Inevitably, it's never about anyone else. My default fix is to immediately think of something that I appreciate about that person and to find happiness for her. I turn whatever thought came to my mind around because it's not the thought or emotion that I initially feel, it's what I do with it when I recognize it. I think we all have default reactions but what speaks to our character is how we handle them when they rear their (sometimes ugly) heads.

    Thank you for touching on that topic. I agree with you that there's room for all of us to shine, (and even wrote about it some months back.) It can't be said enough.
    xo, f
    The House in the Clouds

  11. I totally love this outfit, the knotted top is perfect!
    I hate competition between women....of course there have been many times that I've felt jealous of another women, but it has never caused me to compete, if anything it just made me reevaluate myself to see what I could do to bring myself up to that persons level. Of course that doesn't work with everything though. And of course it could so easily escalate to competition

  12. This is my first time on your blog and I'm here thanks to a tweet! I'm 40-something style blogger based in Australia and I here you loud and clear. This is room for everyone. Competition is silly - supporting other bloggers is what will get you places.

  13. First, let me say how good you're looking in this post.

    I've read both this post and Beautifully Invisible's yesterday. They both have struck a nerve with me. My sense of competition often emerges in quirky, fairly mundane ways.

    I say a prayer each day that I simply remember to be the person the Creator made ME to be. I do not need comparison and I do not need judgment to live my life. But, I do need to remind myself of this fairly often. :)

  14. Lovely outfit perfect for our crazy hot summer. :) And thank you for opening up about your thoughts and struggles. Whether in large or small ways, I think competition between women is always there. We have to constantly try not to bring others down because of it... and to forgive those that fall prey to that mindset (or try at least). :)

  15. Thank you so much for sharing this. Yes competition is healthy, but not when it becomes a tool to push other (or even yourself!) down...
    As for your outfit---- tres chic!

  16. "Competition drives us to be better." Absolutely. I am learning to turn envy into inspiration and my fellow bloggers are a constant source.

  17. Such a thoughtful post, and I like the hot pink and black outfit you're wearing.

    Competition has, unfortunately, affected my relationships in the past. I used to be close friends with this one girl, but there was always an undercurrent of one-upmanship to our relationship. If something amazing happened to me, she'd say "Whoa, how'd you get it? Congratulations." The congratulations felt empty because it was subsumed by her need to work out how I'd gotten something she hadn't. I could practically hear the gears grinding away in her head trying to work out how she could work my success to her advantage. It got so bad that I didn't want to share ANYTHING good in my life with her.

  18. what a great and thoughtful post! i am surprised that this "90 percent admit they are (or have been) envious and jealous of other women in their lives." is not 100% (sad to say).

  19. "I can’t help but wonder if women are competitive in the blogging and career worlds because they believe the rewards are limited - that there is a maximum amount of success available. That simply isn’t true. There is enough pie for all of us to get a piece, and there’s no need for us to guard our piece viciously, snapping at anyone who comes near it. We all have something of value to offer."

    God yes! This is what I keep trying to tell people. Knowing what success is to you, too, and not for someone else, also helps immensely too. Why create competition and chase the success of another, when it's not really what you want?

  20. What a thoughtfully written and really authentic article... It definitely inspires all of us to stop and ask ourselves about our real motivations and what truly makes us happy. Bravo!

  21. Wow, very thought provoking. I have a group of girls now that I chat with online and we encourage each other to improve and reach for success. I suppose our "healthy" competition would be in setting a group goal for us all to reach individually in our business which has only been a positive.

  22. Hey Lovely,
    Yep, it can get pretty vicious out there!! And it's really hard, at times, not to lose sight of the things that really matter. I think it is possible to engage in healthy competition when we challenge each other to do better and dream bigger - a kinder competition ;)

    Corinne xo

  23. "There is enough pie for all of us to get a piece, and there’s no need for us to guard our piece viciously, snapping at anyone who comes near it. We all have something of value to offer."

    That is soo spot on!! I think if we women remember that, those little pings of jealousy won't last that long!

    Awesome post!!


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