It happens between mothers and daughters, female coworkers, sisters and gal pals—women constantly comparing themselves to others. Whether consciously or unconsciously, most women question who is more beautiful, more successful, or has the most possessions.

At the root of a woman’s misguided beliefs lies female competition. While the idea of competition among women might bring to mind the dramatic makings of a Hollywood soap opera—complete with hair-pulling, name-calling, and catfights—in reality, female competition is quite different from the stereotypes.

Female competition is actually a very subtle and insidious thought process that seduces many women into judging themselves and questioning their worth. A woman may be feeling beautiful and strong until another attractive woman crosses her path; then, a slight shift occurs within. She begins to feel inadequate and to find fault with her own appearance. When the game of competition is present within us, we are directed away from ourselves, from our inner worth and value, and are focused outward on the beauty and success of others.

Female competition is not a concept that most would identify as a problem in their lives. It is so engrained in our belief systems that few see the subtle ways in which we undermine one another and harm ourselves, but as we come to understand and recognize the core beliefs attached to a competitive mind-set and the misguided actions taken when in competition mode, we can begin to see the damaging consequences to our self-esteem and self-worth.

As women, we are conditioned to compare and compete on many levels. On a physical level we begin at an early age to identify our worth through our looks. We learn to value the “thinnest” or the “prettiest” girl. On a social level we learn to compete for possessions: the biggest house, the most expensive car, the best clothes. We compete in our careers through promotions, titles, and positions. We compete through our children: the cutest, the most successful, and the best athletically or academically. We also compete emotionally for the affection and attention of our husbands, children, parents, friends, and coworkers. We compare everything from bodies to boyfriends, bank accounts to bra sizes.

When did we learn to turn away from our own truths and look to others for our validation and worth? One answer may lie in the conditioning we received as young girls to live the perfect, fairy tale life. Most little girls were read the popular tales as they were growing up. These stories typically ended with only one very lucky maiden winning the heart of the noble prince and living “happily ever after.” It was very clear in the stories that there was only one Snow White who would have all her dreams come true, one Sleeping Beauty who would marry Prince Charming, or one Cinderella whose perfect foot would fit the coveted glass slipper. Oh, how we longed to be the “fairest one of all,” that one special maiden who would be held above all others, the one who would be recognized and adored for her beauty and goodness, the one who would receive all the adulation and live in a castle filled with riches.

As we listened to these tales, we were told that happiness and fulfillment were things found outside of ourselves (in the love of the handsome prince, the admiration of others, and the riches and possessions of the kingdom), and we realized that these rewards could only be obtained through victory over another. We learned that “happily ever after” was bestowed on only one woman, and in order for us to reap this reward, we would need to outdo all other women.

When women compete among themselves, they hold the false belief that their feelings of success and worthiness come only at the defeat or devaluation of another woman. In the constant comparison to be the prettiest, the most accomplished, or the wealthiest, women often treat each other as though they were sworn enemies. This game of female competition, which ultimately defeats our best efforts and sabotages our greatest desires, also isolates us and prevents us from accessing all that is loving and supportive in our relationships with other women.

When we are caught up in female competition, we are constantly ranking everything about ourselves. This scorecard mentality is extremely self-defeating. There will always be someone with longer legs, a more prestigious and successful job, a cuter boyfriend, a bigger house, or smarter kids. Striving to be the best, constantly comparing ourselves to others, struggling to defend and maintain our victories, acquiring, accumulating, and achieving all exact a huge price on us physically, emotionally, and energetically.

By becoming aware of the destructive effects of female competition, we can move beyond it. Recognizing the cues and clues of a competitive mind-set is the first step in freeing ourselves from the fairy tale illusion and reclaiming our power.

* A friend’s success evokes anxiety, bitterness, resentment, or fear.
* You secretly hope that your coworker will fail.
* You feel small, intimidated, or unworthy in the presence of an accomplished woman.
* There is a constant scorecard in your head of wins and losses for yourself and others.
* You are overly critical and judgmental of yourself and others.
* You do not allow yourself to make mistakes or to be less than perfect.
* You spend a majority of your time thinking about your girlfriends and their accomplishments.
* Hopelessness, sadness, or self-defeat plague you when others succeed.
* Being the best consumes your thoughts.

As we become more aware of the many ways in which we compare and compete, we will then begin to identify within ourselves the effects this mind-set may be having on us. For some, female competition may evoke a simple shift in confidence or a minor decrease in energy and vitality. We may not even recognize the subtle feelings of self-doubt or the self-deprecating thoughts that quietly whisper to us of our perceived inadequacies. For other women, or in other situations, the effect of competition may be overwhelming. We may experience tremendous anxiety at the thought of being in the presence of other successful and attractive women, or we may feel ourselves sliding into depression and apathy because we do not believe that we can “keep up” with those around us.

Transforming female competition occurs when we stop looking outside ourselves for love, validation, and admiration and begin finding it within. When we look to the wisdom and strength that resides deep within each of us and when we direct our attention and affection back to ourselves, we cultivate a deeper relationship with the most essential, important, vital, and trustworthy person we will ever know—ourselves.

When our eyes remain focused on the magnificence and beauty that rests at our core, or our essential self, we will finally find the love that we desire and deserve. This love is not the love that comes from Prince Charming or from the admiration and adulation of others. It is love that comes from the knowledge and recognition of each one of us as a unique, glorious, and remarkable woman.

** This article is one of 101 great articles that were published in 101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life. To get complete details on “101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life”, visit

Author's Bio: 

Christy Whitman is a personal empowerment coach and the best-selling author of Perfect Pictures. Rebecca Grado is an MFT. For a free bonus meditation (valued at $29) to reclaim your self-worth and cultivate self-love, visit and sign up for “The Quarterly Newsletter.”