Worried About Winning
March 10, 2010 § Leave a Comment
“I like it when girls can snowboard. But I don’t need some chick trying to shred better than me, take my job.” — Champion snowboarder Shaun White, in People magazine, on what he looks for in a woman.
I find this deeply upsetting, and also fascinating. Let me tell you a story about this.
I had the great privilege of traveling to Morocco last month on a volunteer trip. The wonderful program we went with has a “home-base” where you stay with up to 30 other volunteers. On our second day, I joined some of my new housemates in a round of the (highly addictive) game Bananagrams.
It was my first time playing the game, but after a couple of hands, I was doing pretty well. I used up all of my letter tiles before anyone else, winning the round — three or four times in a row. But I began to feel self-conscious about my success — I wanted very badly for these new acquaintances to like me, and I was worried that my repeated winning would exasperate them and ruin any chances for meaningful friendship. And so I censored myself; I waited just a few seconds longer before calling, “Bananagrams!” I allowed someone else to win the next round, though I was perfectly capable of winning it myself. I couldn’t help but think that a guy in the same situation would have made a joke of his success, upping the friendly competition and humorously challenging anyone to beat his streak. He would not have felt ashamed, because he would have been taught from birth to achieve at any cost.
This is what happens to women in patriarchy. We are taught to limit our success, to quell our achievements, because they are supposedly threatening to others, particularly men.
As I reflect on the incident, I am reminded of this lovely quote:
“Our biggest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” — Marianne Williamson