If I had a nickle for every time I heard a woman say that she wasn’t competitive I’d have at least a dollar, if not five. As a woman with a strong competitive drive, I’m not buying it. I’m clearing out my inbox for the hate mail I’m about to receive by saying this, but honestly, if women weren’t competitive there’d be no gossip, make-up or high heels. Please send email to: firstname.lastname@example.org. 😉
My husband is a psychiatrist with a strong athletic drive. I’m a coach and a pop-psychologist. A lot of our discussions are about the brain and the body. (Feel sorry for our kids?) When I told him today that I wanted to write about girls and competition, he suggested I tie that in to a recent study which has located the part of the brain that experiences social rejection – ie. rejection from a friend, a group, or a lover. Whatever the rejection, it is experienced in the same part of the brain that also experiences physical pain. He then went on to say that the phrase “being thrown to the wolves” is a reference to rejection because in times past, if you were rejected by your community, you’d likely die (by wolf, I assume?). In terms of evolution, it’s no wonder rejection hurts so much.
In any case, the gauntlet has been thrown. Rejection, the brain, girls and competition. I’m competitive – I’ll take the challenge.
Every year I get to work with several groups of teenage girls in the community. I’m hired mostly to kick-off their training season. I’ve enjoyed one team in particular: the View Royal Raiders – a competitive fast pitch team comprised of young women between the ages of 16-18. http://sites.google.com/site/viewroyalraiders/photos/boxing-conditioning
I’ve worked with this team for two years now – they are a bright and hardworking group and a pleasure to train. In our last round of training we had a conversation about the important role that baseball plays in their lives. They said that though they are sometimes sidetracked by other people (ie. boys) and can get lost in the teenage drama of wanting to be accepted into certain cliques – they always have baseball.
Competition is natural – for boys AND for girls. Let’s encourage it and channel it into an investment of unique talents, skills, efforts and excellence. Wanting to be accepted is also natural and our competitive drive partly stems from that instinct. Rejection can hurt as much as getting kicked in the stomach (and now we know why). The internal focus and dedication that comes from athletic competition (and/or the pursuit of art, music, study, etc.) can, to some degree, insulate girls from the threat of rejection by giving them a place to call home.
Now have a quick glance at boxer Lucia Rilker up at the top of the page. How hard do you think she suffers rejection?
In sport, Sandy