Learning to play nice

What if we looked at other’s successes as sources of inspiration rather than allowing them to manifest as resentment?

by Kate Nelson

Lions are the only big cats that live in groups. These “prides,” as the glossy pages of Zoobooks once taught us to call them, allow the fierce felines to take down prey that would otherwise prove overwhelming and to better defend their cubs and their territories.

Most other cats spend their time in solitude, depending upon themselves as the main source of their survival, save for our domestic meowers that are outraged if an ample supply of Meow Mix isn’t readily at their disposal.

Though I hate to simply play into an exaggerated stereotype, I can’t help but make a mental comparison between women and cats. Perhaps my female-crowded field is partially responsible, but I have long looked at the women around me – and the successful ones in particular – as competition.

The females I encounter are quickly filtered into one of two categories: ally or adversary. Sadly, this goes beyond simply creating some friendly competition.

Allies normally take the form of women who have established themselves as benign, not necessarily in their own lives, but in any possible areas of competition. Or they take shape as females with whom I share a common rival.

Those deemed adversaries are usually women who possess something easily coveted, whether that quality is beauty, happiness, or some equally incalculable form of success.

Sadly, these are the strong females from whom I could learn the most. Occasionally a few of these women escape the siphon and are accidentally filed as “safe.” The friendships that transpire are some of the most positive relationships I’ve developed.

I would like to think most women don’t make conscious efforts to avoid engaging with and enjoying the success of other females.

Unfortunately, the truth of the matter is that we can size up – and tear down – someone we hardly know in a matter of seconds.

And this is how we go about our days, staring down the other big cats, as if we’re able to visually deter them from nabbing the gazelle we want. It’s an exhausting, involuntary activity, this inventorying of others’ positive and negative traits.

I’m not sure if this is a gender-specific situation; we can all picture the scenarios in which men envy the bicep size or curvaceous army candy of another fellow. But is there such a constant need to compete? Are men as – dare I say it – catty?

Maybe it’s just human nature to discredit those who have found some form of success.

What would happen if we retracted our claws? What if we looked to one another’s successes as sources of inspiration rather than allowing them to manifest as resentment?

Now I’m not about to quote “Lean on Me” lyrics, but these lions just might have the right idea. Perhaps it makes sense to have a prowling pack or at least entertain the idea of having one. And maybe, just maybe, if we can put aside our petty jealousies and find allies in those around us, we will have the strength to take on something larger than ourselves.

Kate Nelson welcomes comments at [email protected].