What We Need To Teach Teen Girls About Competition

by Lisa Wyckoff
Originally Published: 
Competitive teenage girls at the skate park carrying skateboards

I recently saw a sign that said: “Admire others’ beauty without questioning your own.” As a mom of a 14-year-old girl, and as a woman, this really resonated with me. How often do we see a beautiful, funny, intelligent, strong (or any other adjective) woman and — instead of just admiring her beauty — we question our own? I know I am guilty of this and I have been since I was young. For some reason, for a lot of women, we are immediately threatened by other women.

There are so many contradictions to being a woman, at least it seems like it to me. I support women, stand up for women, and pride myself on being a strong woman. Yet, I am also the same women who will look at the 20-somethings in the bar and feel a ping of jealousy because they are younger, cuter, and rockin’ the ripped jeans look way better than I am.

I work with high school students. I know girls and girls can be mean. I have tried to explain to my daughter that, for some reason, middle school (and high school) girls feel like they have to put others down to feel better about themselves. I try to convince her that we need to stop this mentality and support each other. Yet, I am the same women who will snicker to myself (or someone else) about another woman’s outfit. Why do I do this? Why do we do this?

As an adult woman, I know how hard it is to be a woman. I understand the pressure of trying to be a good mom and wife. I know the struggle of balancing a career and family life. I want to set an example to my daughters that women have to support each other and build each other up. But yet, I still allow myself to feel threatened, or in competition, with other women.

Why is this?

Studies have actually been conducted on the subject of female competitiveness, and these studies have shown that there is deep evolutionary reasoning behind this behavior. As Noam Shpancer writes in Psychology Today, women need to protect themselves (i.e., their wombs) from physical harm, so indirect aggression keeps us safe while lowering the stock of other women.

Basically, putting down other women to make myself feel better has been a kind of “survival of the fittest” throughout evolution? Ridiculous!

It appears to me that it is time to cut those evolutionary ties and release those old beliefs.

I am enough. You are enough.

A young, vibrant 21-year old hanging out at the bar looking great in her ripped jeans does not lower my stock. A mom with her 6 kids calmly walking through the grocery store in her Lululemon workout gear (that she actually wore to workout) — while I yell at my kids and feed them cereal to keep them quiet, wearing my sweatpants for the third day in a row, does not lower my stock. A picture of a family on Facebook smiling on their European vacation while I sit in my living room and watch the Travel Channel does not lower my stock.

These women are not your threats. They are your allies.

It is time to step up and support each other. It is time to recognize our beauty and our own stock. It is time to release the judgment on ourselves and others. It is time to know our self-worth.

It is time to smile at the sweatpants-wearing mom, congratulate the European traveling mom, or tell the 21-year-old you love her jeans. Because I promise you, they are looking at you too trying to figure out how it is YOU pull it off.

Being a woman is hard. Competing with each other makes it even harder.

Today, I challenge you to release your old beliefs about yourself, release your judgments and “admire others’ beauty without questioning your own.”

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