Disclaimer: I do not in any way condone stalking of any kind. No accounts were hacked; and no information, that hadn’t already been made public, has been used. And of course, all names and all identifying features have been changed.

In the cult 80’s teen flick Say Anything, All-American-Dream-Girl-Next-Door and sheltered, overachieving daddy‘s girl, Diane Court (Ione Skye), goes out on a date to a pre-grad party to celebrate the final year with fellow members of her graduating class; a body of misfits, she later comes to realize she barely knew. After awkwardly making her way through the room full of vaguely familiar and bewildered faces gawking at her, Diane is excitedly pulled aside by one such female classmate, who “knew of her” rather than “knew” her, and hears this: I know we were “ultra competitive” this year but if it wasn’t for [you] I probably wouldn’t have gotten into Cornell because you made me study twice as hard. So thanks. 

Diane is taken aback, and then, in kind, admits that her studiousness (resulting in her being valedictorian, no less) was also influenced, in some ways, by their silent competition.

Art imitating life? Not according to a number of current studies showing that women hate individual competition, especially in the workplace.

Per these studies, most women prefer to compete in groups, even when an individual woman is fully competent on her own. But, still to the chagrin of many a feminists, most work environments don’t engender group competition, making it much easier, likelier for men (who tend to thrive on individual competition) to earn higher wages and job promotions. It doesn’t help that girls and women receive mixed messages on the subject of competition. Sexual competition is bad. But workplace competition is good; the caveat being, however: if your competitor in said workplace is a fellow XX chromosome-carrier then you need to mind your P’s and Q’s, lest you perpetuate gender stereotypes like catfighting and backbiting.

At least for me, those studies are/were true. I recoiled from any sort of competition: individual; group; male vs. female; female vs. female; etc. My last attempt at some kind of meaningful competitive resolve was in high school during standardized testing season, and like Lebron James, I simply choked.

And ever since, you can say I’ve been simply coasting: ceding any and every “contest” in my life to others. I was trapped in this navel-gazing rut-bubble. Competing against oneself isn’t necessarily the greatest motivator: sure, I hadn’t accomplished anything great in my life, but neither did “Babette.”

My rut-bubble burst when one of my mother’s random asides actually penetrated my psyche: Such-and-Such, a (former?) childhood bff of mine, was getting married; and was now living in a certain cosmopolitan city.

Who? What? Huh?

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  • EbonyLolita

    I think what’s a good thing to do is surround yourself with AMBITIOUS ppl to begin with. Even though their personal goals are not an exact match of yours their drive should be. That is the kind of ppl that will give you a boost!! Even when some of my friends are down their up b/c their DRIVE is pushing them to do better. That is something I relish & have naturally incorporated into my life. Mainly from upbringing, but I kept the ball rolling due to the type of friends/acquaintances I keep in my cypher.

    P.S. FB is a damn lie & I know it b/c when you KNOW ppl personally & see the hooch they try to sell on FB it’s a laugh out loud moment. Ppl always wanna be on full display & FB helps ppl write & star in their own screenplay. Don’t feel bad about what you read or see on there girl. LOL

    • binks

      Agreed, surrounding yourself with ambitious people in turn makes you ambitious, I could never be friends with someone who has no goals. Nor do I mind competition, to Jr challenging myself and competing with a worthy opponent makes me better even if I am on the losing end. All in all it’s about your drive and stepping up to the plate for yourself. But SO glad I don’t do social media…lol

  • Megira

    This is an interesting post. Personally, I try to avoid looking around too much on Facebook because it often does make me feel unhappy with my life when most of the time I feel like I have a pretty good life. I think this is for a few reasons. Facebook sometimes makes me a little insecure about my own life choices, but in a way that has more to do with uncertainty about the future than actually wanting what a person has so much. For instance, I may see someone’s pictures from a vacation and wonder if I should travel more, but then I realize I don’t want to spend my money that way.

    Also even without trying to show off people are usually going to post stuff on Facebook that makes you think everything in their life is hunky dory but really you can’t tell. Most people don’t post about bad stuff on Facebook cos it makes them come off a little ungrateful I think. Like if you took a trip with some friends somewhere you’re gonna post the pics but you’re not gonna mention that you were bored or whatever cos that could be seen as rude. You know, it’s “what’s good” for a reason. :)

    The thing about looking at other people’s profiles is that their life is not your life. You have to live YOUR life. If looking at other people’s profiles gives you good ideas about how to get what you want then that’s good. But I recommend LN’s solution–find a mentor who can give suggestions cos often you won’t feel competitive with a mentor, you feel inspired by them.

    There was actually another interesting post I saw on this here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2088074/Facebook-makes-sad-Pictures-make-people-jealous-other.html

  • Morgan

    I feel like you took the thoughts out of my head.

    My husband hates it when I do this, but it’s such a source of motivation for me!! I working on this start-up and some days are rough (I mean, really rough), and honestly… what you’re talking about in this article (although it feels weird to admit it), is the only thing that gets me going sometimes.

    I think how it affects you really is based on how confident you were before you started looking. Lots of things suck about my life (some dreams I’m living, some haven’t been fully executed yet), but a lot of things are awesome about my life.. and I know there are girls out there stalking my page.

    I think if it makes you feel bad, you definitely shouldn’t. But for those like me, who have that more masculine competitive fire.. I say go for it. Nothing is more ice-cold-water-in-the-face-refreshing than to see that chick who you thought was nobody graduated from Yale Law.. hahahahahahaha. Nothing’s better for me to get me up off my butt!

    Congrats for being brave enough to share!

  • This is a great post! I’m all about some healthy competition and sometimes Facebook is a great motivator for that, other times it can be a great depressor! Lol.

    I think people tend to see the good in other people that we don’t see in ourselves regardless of what we post on Facebook. I am all-consumed with wanting a job in journalism and get depressed seeing some of my colleagues I graduated with posting status about their awesome TV-reporter jobs. Yet, I’m sure while I’m moping about that, some other chick is coming home from her awesome job and looking at my FB pics of me & my husband and then getting sad because she isn’t married. We all have good about our lives and bad about our lives. Facebook can to illuminate the good in other people and the bad in ourselves. It’s kind of weird in that way.

    • Cree

      Great insight, Alissa! What you are talking about is actually a great way to understand the word “envy.” It’s not just a green-eyed monster…it’s about valuing something else as good, because you may feel that what you have is bad. The antithesis to envy is “equanimity” which means realizing ALL things have good and bad…nothing is exclusive…like you so wisely pointed out. Envy essentially is wanting to trade “A” for “B” because it may be hard to put in the work toward valuing yourself and your life on the B side…especially if you feel like your life isn’t living up to some idealized image. The mind tricks itself into thinking you could easily trade “A” for “B” and then you’d be happy and your problems will be solved. Not true!!!

      There is a whole chapter on this, and many other interesting human passions and virtues, in the book I’m reading called “The Enneagram of Passions and Virtues: Finding the way home” by Sandra Maitri. It’s a heavy read, but if you are really interested in inner development and attempting to find contentment, it’s a rewarding challenge.

      In all, this book pointed out that envy is all about “valuing the good in others and illuminating the bad in yourself.” You were spot on :)