Without competition and competitiveness, life would be more stagnant, gifts would lie fallow, and achievement would taper into nothingness. We need competition to continue to achieve and innovate.
But when competition becomes domination and ego driven, it can damage confidence and self esteem, encourage jealousy and envy; and on a bigger scale, produce losses that harm all life on the planet.
Since this is a blog about merging fierce and feminine, it’s time to tackle the topic of competition through that lens.
Through observation it seems that there are major differences between the masculine (fierce) orientation towards competition and the feminine orientation towards competition. And before going any further, let me reiterate that I’m not talking about the difference between men and women related to competition. I’m talking about the difference between masculine and feminine principles and qualities that can be present in both men and women in competition.
Competition and Competitiveness Masculine Style
The masculine perspective on winning could be summed up by this quote.
“Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” Vince Lombardi.
That quote brings to mind scenarios like the Olympic platforms for gold, silver and bronze medals, or an election where one person is the winner and goes on to represent his or her constituents, or a scholarship that only one person can receive.
It also brings to mind the emotional reactions of those who don’t make it on to the platform or win the seat or scholarship. People who don’t make first place are devastated and have to take time to recover from the metaphorical bruises. An awareness of the loss that possibly lay ahead does not prevent the tears afterwards.
This view of competition is the most prevalent one in our mainstream society. When I looked for quotes about winning, it was easy to find quotes like the one above, or this one that’s even harsher.
“Show me a gracious loser and I’ll show you a failure.” Knute Rockne.
Or how about this one?
“We’re not born winners. We have to make ourselves into winners by our dedication to the grind.” ATGW
(Do we really want to win by dedicating ourselves day after day to the ‘grind’? Wouldn’t we also want to have an equal dedication to fun and pleasure and aliveness?)
Let’s leave the masculine perspective behind and explore the more feminine aspects of competition.
Competition and Competitiveness Feminine Style
Finding quotes to represent the points I want to make about what I’d call the feminine view of competition were harder to track down.
Win or lose, I’ll feel good about myself. That’s what’s important. Mary Doctor.
Perhaps this one came closer to what I was looking for.
Winning doesn’t always mean being first. Winning means you’re doing better than you’ve ever done before.
Our English language is full of concepts and phrases about winning or losing. Win win scenario. Winner take all. Zero sum game (where no one wins). Drop the ball (lost!).
I have to confess, I get stuck on the word win. By definition, there’s always a loser, and win always implies better than. The question is better than who? Or what?
Underlying the concept of winning, not always easily seen unless you’re looking, is the idea of scarcity. There’s only one gold medal to be had. There’s only one seat to be won in the election. Only one top scholarship prize.
Never Miss the Weekly Post
This makes the masculine idea of competition and competitiveness a potent force in holding up the structures of the patriarchy because the patriarchy is built on hierarchies with power concentrated at the top and less and less power as one travels down the pyramid.
So what’s the alternative to this kind of competition and competitiveness? Is there a healthy kind?
Merging Competition with Transformation
If scarcity means there’s never enough, and in some cases, I’m never enough, the heart of true competition is transformation. For transformation to occur, each competitor draws on both masculine and feminine principles.
On the way to your spot on ‘the podium’:
- What did you become?
- What did competing add to your self knowledge about what it means to be your best?
- Did the others around you help you to be your best, or were they there to beat?
- Did you consciously dig deep with your losses and use them as stepping stones to more transformation?
- Did you compare yourself to others or did you think only about comparing your present self to your future self?
Without transformation as the real reason behind competition, it’s limited. It’s not about being better than someone else, but being better than your former self, and the best YOU that you can be. That’s it, in a nutshell.
Are You in the Right Place?
I love this quote from one of my all time favourite movies, War Games. In the movie ( if you don’t know it already) a huge super computer is tasked with exploring all war scenarios and finding a defense for any avenue of enemy attack. The stakes are high because it’s nuclear war, and the computer doesn’t know the difference between a game and real war.
At the end, when no attempt results in a winning scenario, the computer says to its designer:
Greetings Professor Falken. A strange game. The only winning move is not to play.
Competition can point out to us that we’re pursuing a path that won’t get us where we want to go. The lesson is to have the courage to leave it behind.
Courage, becoming more, and transformation are the glue that hold together a masculine perspective of winning and a feminine one, making them one.
When both men and women understand and practice that ideal, competition and competitiveness are not war. They’re a path to a more expanded and expressed life.
…and you discover that the person you thought you were is no match for the one you really are. Anon
What’s your view on competition and transformation? Please leave you comment below.