Though I like to use a gaggle of different adjectives to describe myself, when you strip it down to its most basic components, the one attribute that seems to trump most others is my natural competitive instincts. For better or worse, that gene seems to dominate my personality. I’m kind of a walking stereotype of the male competitive streak.
Sure, I’d like to believe that I’m a more evolved, sensitive, renaissance man and maybe in some ways I am. The Wife always identifies my most prominent personality trait as being “a numbers guy”. Whether it’s our finances, statistical probability or just basic math, she is quick to assign that distinction when talking about me to others. And, while I won’t disagree with her description, what she probably doesn’t realize is that that’s just the competitor in me. Numbers are just a great way of keeping score.
I’ve had a long-standing relationship with video games. And as much as they’re built for entertainment, I don’t play games for fun. I play them to beat the game. I’m trying to “solve” the game. And we’re not talking puzzle games, I play mostly sports games which don’t have a set endpoint. Yet, my goal when playing was always to get myself to the level where I had figured out the AI to the point that I couldn’t be beat. Then I’d move on to another game.
When I went through my weight loss journey, I went through a year-long plateau that I couldn’t seem to shake. That is until I found a local weight loss competition. I got picked and 15 weeks later I’d lost the last 85 pounds and blew away the other competitors to win a grand prize of…. absolutely nothing. Didn’t matter though. Having other people to compete with was all I needed to get moving again.
I’m a walking stereotype… usually trying to walk slightly faster than everyone else… but walking nonetheless.
As much as we’d like to believe we defy them, stereotypes are there for a reason. You can’t just throw random theories at the wall and have them stick for generations. Guys are competitive. And it’s because of this natural competitiveness that I believe that God, with His infinite sense of humor, blessed me with not only all daughters… but with the least competitive daughters on Earth.
Again, as easy as it to just boldly support the stereotype of the male competitive gene, it’s just easy to say that females lack that wiring. Obviously, it’s not true in all cases. There are women out there who thrive in and live for competition. Though, a working paper out of the National Bureau of Economic Research conducted by economists out of Stanford and the University of Pittsburgh, recently highlighted competitiveness as an enormous factor of success for both men and women in the business world. Though social sciences will interpret the results differently, their experiments showed that male competitiveness and a lack of it in females were, in their own way, a detriment to both sexes.
Like me, my girls have always fit the stereotype.
My girls don’t have any interest in sports.
If a Spelling Bee comes up at school, they’ll participate but they never put in the hours to try to win.
They don’t go in for the kill in a game of Monopoly.
Over the years, I ‘d gently (I promise) nudge them toward endeavors that might bring it out of them, but it’s just not there. As much as it’d be simple to blame the participation trophy era that we live in for taking the fight out of kids, my girls just never really had it. I’d finally started to simply accept it. Then, suddenly, a new season of human nature started to dawn. Enter sibling rivalry.
It started small.
Despite their two-year age difference, our girls have always been about the same height, suddenly it became a regular topic.
“Dad! Tell her I’m taller. Measure us! And don’t tell us we’re the same!”
Then we’d move on to the arts…
“Dad! We’re both going to draw a giraffe and you have to tell us which is better. Give them each a score and don’t think we’re going to fall for that tie stuff!”
Then it moved outside…
“Dad! We’re going to ride our bikes around the block…. time us! Oh… and tell us who won. And don’t try the tie crap!”
They still had no interest in competing with anyone in the outside world, but the little girl across the hall had become the Michigan/Ohio State of our household.
Even at breakfast today they tried to out do each other flipping pancakes.
When all is said and done, turns out, sort of ironically, that, at least in my kids, the competitive gene is not the strongest one out there. I mean don’t tell the competitive gene that… it won’t take it well.
In the end, maybe it’s sibling rivalry that’s the real king of the hill. As someone who grew up as the middle child of three Brothers that we’re only 41 months apart from oldest to youngest, perhaps it’s sibling rivalry that’s really fueled my competitive instincts. And, somewhere down the road, that fire may burn in my girls’ bellies as well.
I mean… don’t get me wrong…. they’re no ME. I mean… I’m WAY more competitive than they will ever be. Seriously. No… I mean it. No… you judge it and tell us! And don’t try to pull that tie crap!