Competitions are a great motivational tool for increasing performance.

Findings of Coren Apicella and Johanna Mollerstrom, Professors who have studied competition among women and its effects on success and productivity.

Women in the workplace are often reluctant to compete with other women, keeping them from success and perpetuating gender inequalities in the workplace. I can tell you from personal experience that the other woman (or man) will not hesitate to compete with you. Additionally, women who refrain from workplace competition are undoubtedly putting themselves at a severe disadvantage when competing against anyone of either sex. Shying away from competition can be confused with “not trying,” furthering the male dominated workplace culture and putting one even further from their goals.

Bottom line? If you aren’t trying your hardest, you are undermining yourself and will lose the edge that is so necessary in achieving your ultimate potential.

It is no mystery that women still earn significantly less money than men and remain markedly underrepresented in high-status, powerful positions. Professors Coren Apicella and Johanna Mollerstrom used these gender inequalities as the basis of their research regarding women and competition. Their studies, conducted throughout diverse cultures and age groups, concluded that men and women compete differently. For example, research shows that women will more often choose to face tasks alone versus against another. One study advised participants that every math problem answered correctly would earn them $1.00. Alternatively, participants could choose to compete against one another. In that scenario, only the participant with the most correct answers would benefit financially and would receive $2.00 per correct answer. Results showed that women shy away from the competitive option.

Apicella and Mollerstrom took this study one step further by adding a third option: participants first answered the math questions and were then given the option to compete against one another to improve or to compete against their initial scores to improve on their first round results. Not surprisingly, female participants avoided competition with others but enthusiastically competed against themselves in order to improve on their results.

Why do women avoid competition with others? Self-confidence plays a large role. Researchers explain, “When competing against others, we find, women are less sure about whether they can actually win the competition – even when their ability tells us that they are very likely to do so. Most women are comfortable with competing against themselves; they have done it all their lives. Plus in the case of self-competition there is no such gender difference in confidence.” Engaged self-competition is just as effective for improvement as is competition against others.

So, what do we learn from this? We learn that we have to test this theory ourselves. When faced with a daunting obstacle which manifests as competition, try approaching the task from a new angle. Instead of thinking, “Oh, now I have to compete against Steve or Harriet for the position,” think to yourself, “I can do this for myself. I can get this job. I can do better than I did before.”

There is always something you can prove to yourself. I strongly urge you not to get in the way of your own success. Don’t be your own worst enemy. Instead, uncover and test your self-confidence. Compete against your previous successes to make the next one even more profound and satisfying.

YOU CAN DO IT. And you don’t have to do it alone. Consider hiring an executive or life coaching. In just a few coaching sessions, a coach can guide you to the place inside of yourself that is blocking your self-confidence and inhibiting your success. That self-awareness will waken your strengths and abilities, leading you to fulfilling successes at work and at home. What are you waiting for?

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