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Guide for Women, How to Be Competitive Without Being a "B"

Updated on July 6, 2013

If looks could kill

Good luck
Good luck


For years now, I have been an avid recreational tennis player. Most matches are friendly but then there are ones like I just played, that make you want to meet the opponents in the "back alley" and duke it out. My partner and I did our best to be amiable, fair with line calls, and have a good time. While our match was extremely competitive, our opponents did not know how to be tough on the court without ripping us apart with their words and actions.

While most of you probably don't play a sport anymore, I know you've been around a women who has taken it too far whether it's during a sporting match, or in the corporate boardroom. Before you go getting down on yourself, or worse yet, mad at me, consider the fact that maybe it's not all your fault. Keep reading and I'll explain why.

Genetics Are To Blame

Did you know that this "b" problem is something that all women are born with a tendency toward? It's not that we're weaker or hormonal, it's that we process things in such a way that we simply can't help ourselves.

Men compartmentalize their lives. Men are able to detach one segment of their lives from all of the others. Men can duke it out on the sports field, play hard, and come out hugging each other afterward. Women? Oh no. For us, we take everything personally. All areas of our lives touch and have significance for all the other areas. In order for some women to develop that inner fire, this often means viewing others as "enemies." Whenever my husband and I watch professional tennis matches, we see this principle played out. Tennis is a solitary sport. The only team that most players have are their families and paid staff and trainers. So friendships have to be developed. The men seem to do it easily among themselves. The women shoot daggers with their eyes at each other.

I've seen this played out with girls soccer as well. My daughter plays on a 14 and under team and it's not uncommon for expletives to be heard and cheap shots to be seen.

If you think this behavior only takes place in the sports arena, guess again. What about the office place? Think about the driven women who have climbed their way to the top of the corporate ladder. What is the overall opinion of these women? Negative right?

Society is to Blame

We've all been there, you're sitting at a restaurant and the food isn't right. You're starving; the rest of the party is eating and your meal simply won't do. So you firmly explain to the server what's wrong with the order. Just the fact that you complained, makes you a "b" in the eyes of this server. Really? If a man had said the EXACT same thing as you in this scenario, the server would double-time it to the kitchen to fix the order! Because most of us women don't like being thought of in a negative light, we won't say anything and will suffer through a meal that is less than satisfactory. I've developed a thicker skin over the years and have decided that I pay too much for the food that's brought to me and I deserved to be satisfied with what I get!

When men compete whether in a sports arena or the business world, they don't hold back. In fact, they often times "attack" each other. Forgive me for giving another tennis story, but when you play year round and on several leagues, it becomes your life. Watch a professional or intermediate level mens doubles match, and you'll see men purposely aim tennis balls at each other. A favorite shot is to aim for the person closest to the net, going straight for the body. When you stand at the net, you have a shorter reaction time (obviously) making this an effective shot if you launch it from close up. Men enjoy this beating up on each other. It's almost expected, especially at higher levels.

And now my story. I was playing mixed doubles (men and women together), enjoying a competitive match. As the play wore on, the man began beaming balls right at me on a regular basis. I'm tough; I can take it. Typically in mixed doubles, true gentlemen don't aim balls directly at the center of a woman's body--they'll aim it away or at our feet. This man kept going for my head and body on a regular basis. The strange part was, I was the stronger of me and my partner. He could have sent the ball to my partner and won the point. Nonetheless, he kept aiming them at me. After a full set of this nonsense, I spoke up in a bit of a heated voice, asking him to not aim balls at my head. He said nothing.

The third and final set rolled around. It was a tight match. Things began to get heated with allegations of bad line calls. Then it happened. I was standing at the service line (the middle line on my side of the court). The man hit an overhead with a snap of the wrist that made the ball smack the ground hard right in front of me and then smacked me in the cheek! Oh yeah, I had to restrain myself after a stunt like that! Instead of punching the guy, I cussed him out! Then I threw a new can of balls his way (standard procedure for the losing team), put my racket in my bag, apologized to my partner, and stormed off the court. My captain was shocked because he had never heard me use that type of language before. It was either cuss or punch. I chose the one that would keep me out of jail. What is a woman supposed to do when she feels personally threatened?

It's changing, but unfortunately most women and seen as being picky, overly critical, bossy, a princess or a "b" if they dare question or complain, no matter the tone and phrasing we use.

Example from the Office

Some of Us Need to Be Taught

This here is my final reason why we women can tend to act like a "b" when it comes to competitive situations. Because most of us do what comes naturally, some times we need to be taught otherwise. Not convinced? We do it for our toddlers, teaching them that selfishness is wrong and that sharing is the right way to go. We do it for our gradeschoolers who would rather be lazy and watch TV all day than do their chores or homework. We do it with our pets who have to be taught that we are the master and that they must obey when we call.

Just the other day, I was watching the morning news shows and saw a segment on a certain mom who is making out of this world cakes for her children's birthday parties. The segment them goes on to talk about how this overly competitiveness and striving for perfection can make other women either 1) strive just as hard to compete, "killing" themselves in the process, or 2) make them feel badly about their own skills. In my opinion, both choices are bad ones. We've forgotten how to be happy for other's accomplishments. It's hard to honestly do this, but we must try.

"B" Behavior

  • overt gloating and celebration
  • rudeness
  • throwing others under the bus to make yourself look better
  • being overly critical
  • harsh with your words
  • vulgar speech
  • stepping on others to further yourself

Be Competitive Without the "B"

Rule number one, people matter more than winning. Do I need to say anything else? It is sometimes difficult for some people to keep that in perspective. While I don't believe in karma, I do believe that for the most part, you can expect to be treated the same way you treat others. What's challenging is when you come across someone who treats you disrespectfully. That's when you and I need to summon our self-control, restrain ourselves and not sink to their level. For me, I had to remove myself from the mixed doubles tennis match. If I continued, I might have not been strong enough to refrain from hitting him. What a week for my husband and regular tennis partner to be traveling!

Recent examples from tennis

Lisicki just upset Radwanska in a tough 3-set match. No love lost there.
Lisicki just upset Radwanska in a tough 3-set match. No love lost there.
When Bartoli won Wimbledon, she genuinely embraced Lisicki. The two even walked with their arms around each other as they went off the court. Way to go Bartoli for reaching out!
When Bartoli won Wimbledon, she genuinely embraced Lisicki. The two even walked with their arms around each other as they went off the court. Way to go Bartoli for reaching out!


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    • my_girl_sara profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia Lyerly 

      5 years ago from Georgia

      I just found 2 really good examples of what I am talking about. The second photo is a positive example of how to be the bigger person. It's a photo of Marion Bartoli embracing Sabine Liscki after winning Wimbledon today. The two even walked arm in arm off the court. Way to go ladies!!


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