He said she was “competitive.” She snarled back at him, eyes glaring. No, she was not competitive. In fact, she was ultra non-competitive. Disdain on her face spoke of her disagreement with this imperial judgment.
Yet, it stayed with her.
Three days later, she woke up muttering, “I am not competitive.”
She called him.
She told him about that time when she was a child, about 10 or so, and it was a race. She started out with her classmates at the count down, “On your mark. Get set. Ready. Go.” And she took off. As she ran, she noticed everyone zooming ahead of her. Awareness dawned on her: she was going to come in last, or close. Instead of finishing the competition, she detoured, turning a straight track into a right bend, running right nto the crowd that was standing, observing the race. Race over.
This was proof of her lack of competitiveness. Right?
He, an erudite prosecutor, trained by the best, chuckled in his deep baritone voice, amplified because of the cold he was nursing, “Well, it seems to me that story tells of just how competitive you are. You were so competitive, you decided you would rather opt out of the race than lose the race. Ergo, you are the epitome of competition. Got any more stories to prove just how competitive you are?”
I slammed the phone down, the echo of the slight sneer of his voice on the word “stories and “how” reverberating in my ear. He was not even worth a response. It’s Ok. I could slam the phone down. He was a friend of 25 years. He was like a brother to me. We were both lawyers. We took the bar exam together. We loved each other. We always spoke truth to each other. No matter how painful. I trusted him. But I did not like him right now.
Now, I had to sit with this burning indignation. In the ensuing weeks, I recognized that I made constant comparisons, a form of competition. “She is fatter than me.” “She is skinnier than me.” “She is prettier than me.” “He makes more money than God.”
Every evaluation of another had to be based on my evaluation of myself.
Here come the hard questions:
Why do I have to live in a state of evaluation? I know that means that I am constantly comparing and contrasting, wanting to determine where on the scale I fall.
Wait a minute.
I thought I was made in the “Image of God.” I thought I was “wonderfully and fearfully made.” Am I?
I thought you were made in the “image of God.” I thought you were “wonderfully and fearfully made.” Are you? Do I really believe that you are?
How do you compare two wonderful diverse creatures with one another? Do they not serve different purposes? Can you compare a fish to a bird? They serve different functions. Different purposes.
Yet we do it all day long. It is a survival instinct. It is mechanical. We do not even know when we are doing it. It feels protective. It feels like “goal setting.” It lures and seduces. It lies.
There is a difference between the celebratory feeling of “Congratulations on your career promotion” and the feelings of our own diminishment when we say, “Wow, how nice” in a deflated tone as you remember that you associate power with that position.
You see, it is all about power. When you find yourself perceiving the power of others as being more or less than yours, you find your internal vibe shifting upwards or downwards accordingly.
How do we fix this?
This is where your Truth comes in. Truth comes in and says, “Yes, we want to compare. We have gotten into the habit of comparing but we want to appreciate instead.” Appreciating mediates power.
What is missing is that gaze of adoration and curiosity. We all want to be beheld in the loving gaze of the other. We all want to know we have sufficient meaning to those around us. We want to know that just because you got that promotion, it does not mean that I am somehow “less than.” It means that my path and life-trajectory is just as valuable as yours even if the financial remuneration differs significantly. This is appreciation. Appreciation is constant.
Power is important and good when needed. It does not always have to be exerted. When we get into survival mode, it automatically activates. So think of “power” as the electricity running your home. It is always there. However, it surges when you switch on a light in a room and you see evidence of its presence in the brightness now introduced into the room from the light. When you need your power, you can access it. Personal power is always there and available for when you need it.
Appreciation helps us not put the light switch on during the day when we do not “need” the added light. Appreciation helps us know when and how to use our power. With appreciation as a lifestyle, we do not impulsively put on the light switch and engage in surges of power needlessly.
So now, I see that pretty, skinny, smart girl. I revel in all that she embodies: She is gorgeous. She has amazing conversation. She is loving and peaceful. I like her!!! I feel better when I am around her. No need for comparison! No power surges.
That other girl, the pretty one, who has the great grades and comes from the other side of the tracks, she sneers at me when I walk past. I do not want to be around her. I move away. I am not better or worse than her. I just do not like the vibe I receive from her. I want to be around people that do not trigger this feeling of competitiveness. I gravitate to every place I am accepted and loved. No need for power surges.
How does competition show up in your life? How do you try and diminish the light of others? Are you aware when you are doing it? How does appreciation show up in your life?