Your friends are supposed to support and inspire you—heck, strong friendships can even help you conquer stress and increase your lifespan (science says so!)—so that you can live your best life. But when you run with a squad of successful women who are always working toward their next big goal, it’s inevitable that things can start to get a little bit competitive—and that could mean support falls by the wayside.
Now, a little friendly competition could give you the push you need to take that next big step, but you don’t want it to trample your friendship in the process. In her new book, A Tribe Called Bliss, self-love expert Lori Harder discusses the power of female friendships and how to find—and keep—a tribe of women who will have a positive impact on your life.
Keep reading to learn why friendships get competitive in the first place—and what to do about it.
We compete because we judge ourselves
We want our friends to do well and succeed, right? So why is it that envy starts to creep in when they get that promotion (the one you know they deserve)? According to Harder, part of it has to do with our own personal struggle to succeed. “It’s easy to blur the lines of friendship and competition because many of us were raised believing that there were only a few spots at the top,” she says. “It shows up in our friendships as jealousy and can often bring out our inner mean girl who either makes us feel unworthy, not enough, or worse, makes you believe that for you to succeed, you have to take your friend down or steal her thunder.”
Whether you’re feeling competitive about reaching a certain career goal or getting to a stage of life faster than a friend, Harder says this all stems from a personal sense of inadequacy. “We forget that when we make friends with someone, we’re entering into a relationship with the thousands of experiences, relationships, beliefs, and past hurts they have been through,” Harder says. “Many times, we compete with people over marriages, kids, success, and careers because we’re not doing the inner work it takes to fully love and accept ourselves for where we’re at. Relationships are simply a mirror for how we feel about ourselves deep down.”
How to combat your own competitiveness
If you find yourself constantly trying to one-up a certain friend, Harder says to take a look at yourself. “The first thing I do when I’m feeling competitive is to stop and remember that the only reason I’m feeling this way is because her light and accomplishments are reflecting back what I have inside of myself,” Harder explains. Seeing your friend succeed in areas that you haven’t doesn’t mean you never will, it just means that you haven’t yet.
Seeing your friend succeed in areas that you haven’t doesn’t mean you never will, it just means that you haven’t yet.
Also, understand that you’re a part of her success. “In order for women to succeed, we need each other—and when we compete, we all lose,” says Harder. “When I choose to celebrate her for blazing the trail and proving it can be done, I start to give myself permission and hope that I can do it, too.”
And if it’s your friend who’s bringing you down?
Harder suggests having a heart to heart to get clear on why that is. If you’re feeling competitive energy, discuss it, and let your friend know it’s because you value them. “Say to her, ‘I want you to know that I care deeply about our friendship and that’s why I want to make sure we’re always talking about and clearing anything that either one of us feels tension around,'” says Harder. And make sure you let them know you’re open to feedback and discussion, too.
The good news: If your friend is truly an instrumental part of your support structure, and vice versa, there are ways to work through these issues. An openness and willingness to communicate are, as always, key.
But sometimes, friendships are just toxic. Here’s how to tell. And this is how to put some distance between yourself and a friend who is bringing you down.
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