Monday is World Friendship Day (also known as International Day of Friendship) and I’ve spent a great deal of time over the last couple of weeks trying to decide exactly what it is that I want to say about friendship to mark the occasion. I have at least five unfinished, or barely started, posts on my laptop about all kinds of friendship-related subjects, none of which will ever see the light of day (or the WordPress reader!) because it turns out that summing up a topic that is relevant to pretty much everybody (albeit to varying degrees depending on your sociability) is actually quite difficult.
Those of you who have read July’s Monthly Musing will know that a recent article about friendship break-ups by Laura Jane Williams really struck a chord with me and became the inspiration for my own friendship article, but rather than attempt to say something in a similar vein, I really wanted to create something original. Competitiveness was a subject that I’d been wanting to touch on for a while, but I wasn’t 100% sure of where I was going to go with it and so whilst competitiveness within friendships doesn’t exactly sound like a new idea, it certainly seems to me to be a subject worth pondering…and so here are my thoughts on it!
From my perspective, it feels like life has become the ultimate competition. The race (as I like to think of it) begins in childhood and whilst at that age we might not be competitive ourselves (or even understand the concept of competitiveness), the comparison between us and our contemporaries inevitably begins. As we move into adolescence some of us will become eager to beat our peers on the football pitch or in the classroom – a friendly kind of competition that can help us learn and grow and one which is often encouraged throughout our formative years. Eventually, however, we’ll find ourselves faced with the uncertainty of early adulthood and perhaps that is when we should become wary of competitiveness, when the race itself takes on a less obvious route, when life suddenly becomes less structured.
I say “the race takes on a less obvious route”, but in all honesty, even in the twenty-first century there are still a number of targets that you’re expected to hit as you progress through your twenties and thirties. Life may suddenly feel less structured, but the expectation to find a good job, to earn good money, to work your way up the career ladder, to meet someone, to get married (although I would say that this one is less of an expectation these days), to have children, to own property (and lots of other possessions that make you appear successful) and to do all this whilst still planning for the future can lead to a feeling of failure before you’ve even begun. And once you have begun, knowing that your friends are also expected to hit these same ‘life targets’ can sometimes force a sense of competitiveness that we’re perhaps not even consciously aware of.
Social media doesn’t help the situation. Seeing photos of our friends’ holidays, watching videos of their kids, hearing about their latest job promotions – these things can make us feel as if, in the race of life, we’re still puffing and panting near the start line whilst our friends are hurtling their way down the home straight. This doesn’t always lead to competitiveness, of course, but some of us may subsequently find ourselves working harder to catch up with our pals or maybe even inch past them – working for a better promotion, striving for a bigger house.
Now, I’m not saying that everyone’s competitive and I’m also not saying that competitiveness is a bad thing. In fact, a bit of friendly competition can help push us to become the best versions of ourselves. But competition between friends needs a certain kind of objective monitoring – if either party is taking it too far, if one friend is making the other feel inadequate or if the whole thing is becoming too serious, steps need to be taken to stop the friendship from becoming toxic. After all, though we may feel at times as if we’re all striving to reach the same finish line, the speed at which we do it really isn’t relevant. Moreover, if those ‘targets’ I spoke about don’t fit with what you want from life, then don’t let social media or anyone else pressure you into thinking you’re on the wrong track.
What do you think? Are you competitive with your friends and has this had an impact on your relationship with them? Let me know in the comments below!
📷: Belle Co via Pexels