“If I was you, I’d wanna be me too, I’d wanna be me too, I’d wanna be me…too!”
“Why are women so competitive?” my husband leaned in and whispered, as we took in some after-dinner entertainment at a hotel one evening. I giggled; it would certainly seem that way from the playlist these girls were working with. “Don’t you wish your girlfriend was hot like me?” Four luscious ladies belted out the familiar lyrics, strutting their ‘stuff’ in sync to the delight of the room. “She might’ve let you hold her hand in school, but imma show you how to graduate!” the lead singer continued, as they segued from hit to saucy hit.
“Insecurity.” It was my simple response. A little too facile for some tastes, perhaps, but I knew what I was talking about. In the battle of the mind, insecurity is a formidable foe fuelled either by a wavering sense of self-worth, or an uncertainty about one’s place in someone else’s esteem. Insecurity comes armed with a dangerous weapon: a switchblade with two edges called Comparison and Competitiveness.
“Comparison is mostly an internal discourse..”
Comparison works like this. A blogger friend gave me the privilege of reading the draft for her next article. (I’ll make it clear here that I am one of her biggest fans, and was really impressed by how well she’d laid out, researched and articulated her post.
Somehow though, my internal spiel of kudos was overridden by concerns about my own writing. “Wow,” I thought, “she always manages to be so real and relatable, and so interesting. I don’t think mine will ever quite measure up to this. Look how novel this information is, and practical. I should be reading more, then maybe I will be more relevant. Should I even keep writing for this blog?” And on and on it went.
Luckily, over time I’ve learnt how to recognise that niggling little voice that tries to sound like my own, and began to give it the ‘what-for’. “Come on now, you have your own point-of-view and you bring something distinctive to the team. Balance is important and different styles and perspectives are useful. Learn, grow, develop, expand your boundaries, but don’t stress yourself out trying to be what someone else has been gifted to be.” Pep talk queen over here. But that’s what comparison out of hand can do.
It invites you to your own pity party and then helps you beat yourself up about all that someone else is and you’re not, or vice versa. It is the seat of envy and jealousies, if left not dealt with. So you know what else I did? I confessed my weakness to my friend. Granted, I felt safe to do so, understanding my vulnerability would not change her view of me; but getting it out in the open steals strength from the negativity, and keeps you from being isolated with your own deprecating demons.
This is how Emily V. Gordon put it in her online opinion post for the New York Times, Why Women Compete With Each Other, “We aren’t competing with [others] ultimately, but with ourselves — with how we think of ourselves. For many of us, we look at [others] and see, instead, a version of ourselves that is better, prettier, smarter, something more. We don’t see the other [person] at all. It’s a fun-house mirror that reflects an inaccurate version of who we are, but we turn on her anyway, because it’s easier. But we don’t need to lower the stock of [others]. When we each focus on being the dominant force in our own universe, rather than invading other universes, we all win.”
Which leads me to competitiveness. Whereas comparison is mostly an internal discourse, competitiveness externalises your inner feelings and points them straight in the eye of someone else. Comparison is you pulling yourself down . . . competitiveness is you touting yourself as bigger, better, greater – whether or not you are. As Emily alludes to, competitiveness is often an overcompensation for your own perceived insufficiency, or an exploitation of the inadequacy you perceive in the other person, and usually comes along with a heightened sense of self-importance and a LOT of attitude. The Bible calls it ‘thinking of yourself more highly than you ought’. The ladies that sing the songs I mentioned above sound confident and intimidating don’t they?
Well, all that bravado sometimes is just superficial. A lot of anxiety and self-doubt sits unacknowledged behind tough exteriors; inferiority complexes often present themselves loudly and brashly. It’s the way of hurt avoidance that says ‘you’re less likely to reject me if you don’t know you can affect me.’
I will make the disclaimer that this is not the case for everyone. Some people are just very proud of who they are, believe they are all that and a rubber insole, and that everyone should know. Fine. This is no excuse though for lording one’s ‘awesomeness’ over others.
If you are the best, people should be able to figure that out on their own.
Joyce Meyer shares that “many people don’t understand God’s love for them, and if they did, they would act a whole lot different than they do. They wouldn’t get caught up in competition, compare themselves to others, be afraid of their mistakes or afraid of admitting weaknesses if they were secure in God’s love.” I have to agree. It’s not that His love overlooks the things that need adjusting in our lives, but He grants us a safe place to settle our issues without condemnation. And with that right perspective, we are truly able to love ourselves and so, to love others.
Once we have a revelation of God’s love for us, how do we continue to walk in victory over insecurity and avoid impaling ourselves on the sword of comparison and competitiveness? By exercising these principles we often use toward others, on ourselves first. The Bible calls them the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Friend, Love yourself.
Love who God has made you uniquely to be. Love yourself past your failures.
Give thanks for what you contribute to the world and enjoy who you are. There is no one like you and you’re awesome dude.
Be at peace with yourself.
Stop striving. Bring down the lofty expectations and breathe.
Have patience with yourself.
Everything in its time.Don’t despise your small beginnings. You’ll get a hang of life.
Show yourself some kindness.
Let God’s words about you be what you confess, receive and believe.
Give yourself the gift of goodness.
Stop putting yourself last. You need some time for you. Don’t compromise it.
Be faithful to yourself.
Don’t settle for anything that is below the standards God has set for you.
Be gentle with yourself.
Cut yourself some slack sometimes. You are human and you are awesome. And finally,
It’s for the best. Reel that insecurity in as soon as it raises its ugly head.
Insecurities become pale in the light of God’s acceptance and unconditional affection for us. This means less time wasted on comparison and competitiveness, and more energy devoted to unique purpose. Now that’s fruitful!
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Tao Howard Parent Blogger
Tao Howard is a little ‘crazy’ – by nature and by circumstance. The wife of one husband and mother of three boys with seemingly endless energy, she is 99% Bajan, 1% Trinidadian and a second generation purple lover and good food lover. Tao is passionate about good design, writing, and helping young people navigate, sustain and preserve their lives and relationships. Most of all she loves Jesus and worshiping Him in various expressions.