While it has long been argued that this female-female competition could be credited to the biological search for a mate, experts say it ranges beyond that. "Competition and use of behavioral tactics extend to ascending dominance hierarchies, keeping the mate one already has, minimizing the threat of competitors and even 'poaching' a mate from others, " says behavioral analyst Jessica Stephans. "This feeling of competition may be linked to the experience of losing something we desire or already have, or even the fear of losing this desired thing. " According to the article "Jealousy and the Threatened Self: Getting to the Heart of the Green-Eyed Monster," the degree to which we experience these feelings relates to self-esteem, perceived status and power, among other variables.
To make matters even more difficult, women are often pulled in multiple directions when it comes to their conduct in society. Women are supposed to behave a certain way in public, but in the workplace, social circles and even on reality TV shows they are encouraged to talk smack about friends.
"Glorifying the people who behave deviantly on television could encourage this jealous behavior," says Stephans. "Perhaps this speaks to the need to break free from societal constraints for women who fall in step with what society expects of them." Whether women publicly badmouth one another or have an internal jealousy battle, this supposed competition takes over our minds, leaving little room for determining more effective ways to get what we want.
Like most girls, I tried my best to stay away from "drama," but found myself being sucked into the treacherous intra-gender battle. I have one particular best friend I've known since we were 8 years old. Our lives seemed to parallel each other for the most part growing up: She had two sisters. I had two sisters. Her dad was a doctor. My dad was a doctor. Her family had a beach house, my family had a beach house. But when my father passed away in December 2010 I found myself becoming increasingly resentful and jealous as her career, relationship and family took off while it felt like everything in my life fell apart.
Not wanting to hear about all of the amazing things happening to her, I purposely avoided spending time with her and would devote an unnecessary amount of time lamenting her achievements. Though she was an extremely supportive friend throughout my roller-coaster journey of grief, my own childish thoughts prevented me from accepting her help.
I spoke to a therapist about these overwhelming thoughts, and she helped me realize it was a waste of energy and I should channel that energy into bettering myself. I reflected on what I admired about my best friend and started to emulate that behavior rather than resent it.
The results were incredible. New career opportunities opened up, my anxiety decreased and, best of all, my relationship with my best friend grew stronger than ever.
Once I learned to shift my perception I was able to not only be happy for my best friend, but also use her success to positively fuel my ambitions. "Consider what is best for your relationship," says Stephans. "Competition might be easier and seem like a faster route to the desired item, whether it be a mate, job or position in a social group. However, in the long run, cooperation always wins out."
Is being selfish wrong? No. But, we are social creatures, and competition can lead to long-term outcomes we may have wished to avoid. According to an affirmation by motivational speaker and life coach Gabrielle Bernstein, "To feel more at peace I send love to everyone around me." If women would take the energy wasted on bashing friends and channel it toward supporting themselves and fellow females, imagine the meaningful friendships and amazing things that could be accomplished.
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