Surviving the Estrogen Surge

She was tall, thin, toned, and drop dead gorgeous. Her hair was always perfect, her wardrobe was ripped straight from the pages of J.Crew, and her laugh lit up the room. She always had a man on her arm and a jammed social calendar, despite studying enough to routinely make the Dean’s List.

We all know a girl like that. The one we compare ourselves to when we’re not wishing we could be her. Put yourself in a dorm full of these women, and you could very well go crazy.  Not only can conflicts emerge in establishing a hierarchy, but in an environment where a large number of women are in close cohabitation,  a fierce and unspoken competition develops on the physical end as well.

That’s not to say dorm living is a horrible experience or unnecessary stress. Many of my strongest friendships are with women I met on my hall.

I lucked out, and I know it.

On the other hand, there were lots of not-so-fabulous times. There were lots of rumors; lots of Alpha Females with clashing opinions; and, as I already mentioned – lots of jealousy. For an extremely competitive girl caught in the middle of an eating disorder, this was not a healthy habitat. I dragged a roommate to the campus gym and gloated when I was able to run farther than she was but beat myself up when she kicked my tush at strength training. I fasted for three days when the jeans I borrowed from my neighbor were snug on me but skimmed right over her hips. I found satisfaction in my dinner plate being smaller than those of my skinny friends, and I bonded with my suitemates by swearing off this food or that because our bellies were “simply unacceptable”.

One particular young lady and I clashed very frequently. Although we were able to keep the peace in the dorm, our relationship was icy and passive-agressive as exchanged petty little jabs on a routine basis. We both were competitive and high achieving women who perceived each other as a threat and a challenge, even though in reality, there was no game being played and no winner to be crowned.

Eventually, instead of allowing myself to be miserable fighting for the top slot in a competition that existed only between the two of us, I decided to let the friendship fade out. Our relationship was toxic and I knew it; as fewer and fewer of my plans included this suitemate, I found myself far happier and less down on myself. My energy was no longer channeled into being her superior – instead, I worried only about making myself the best me I could be, regardless of how it measured up to her. As I became more and more secure in myself, her negativity lost it’s hold on me. Unfortunately, this came too late for our friendship to be salvaged.

I don’t maintain regrets; my life is my life and there’s far more to worry about than the past that ultimately ends up shaping my future. However, I do wish certain things had been done differently, especially in this area. So much energy was lost in useless pettiness over those two years. If I had the chance to go back, what would I have changed?

  • I would have shrugged off the passive-aggressive comments. I clearly remember many of the things this suitemate said in reference to my body, my boyfriend (or at other times, the lack thereof), my clothing, my food choices, etc and so on. Because I was incredibly insecure and bristled easily at these jabs, she learned quickly how to push my buttons and proceeded to do so whenever she was feeling threatened.
  • I would have encouraged her successes. As I think back, not once did I share in her excitement when things were going right. Conversely, when she wasn’t accepted to grad school or broke up with a boyfriend, I know I wasn’t as compassionate as a friend should be. Again, this rooted back to my own insecurities – when she was succeeding, it meant I had to double my efforts to top her, but when she was failing, my botched diet or failed quiz didn’t seem so horrific. I honestly couldn’t have expected to have a healthy friendship when I was still in such a low place that I was more focused on proving my own worth to myself than encouraging her successes.
  • I would have refused to compare myself to her. Women do it all the time, often subconsciously and before we can realize it. We can do it in a manner that makes ourselves feel better and also to make ourselves feel worse – in my situation, both were involved. We were both acutely aware of where we measured up to each other – I was thinner, she was stronger; I ate less, she earned more; etc and so on. I fixated on my “losses” and gloated over the “wins”, and I’m willing to bet she did the same. What I failed to realize was that life is not a game; there is no winner. Competitiveness can be constructive to a degree, but nothing good can ever come from viewing other women as a threat. Our expectations for ourselves are high enough that the added pressure of holding ourselves to our own standards as well as someone else’s is a recipe for disaster. This only feeds into the “I’m not good enough” mentality and the havoc it wreaks.
  • I would have focused more on me. As narcissistic as that sounds, it’s true. I would have been better off channeling the energy I spent worrying about her put-downs into something that made me more secure in myself, my abilities, and my worth. This actually came about when I became serious about running; I was able to surprise myself with my achievements and take pride in something constructive. As I began realizing that I was everything she made me feel like I was not, her comments lost their sting. I was able to choose to do things because they made me genuinely happy – not because they would give me bragging rights or the upper hand.

Simply put, jealousy happens. It can take root in even the most laid-back dramaphobe and infuse everyone’s life with unnecessary added stress. It requires shelving our insecurities and our egos, but we can choose not to feed into the negativity and spare ourselves a great deal of misery. When we consciously evict the resentment and jealousy that are at the root of these petty power struggles, it’s entirely possible to maintain smooth and fulfilling relationships with other women and avoid placing ourselves in a negative environment.

Have you ever caught yourself in the middle of a toxic, jealousy-driven friendship? How have you remedied the situation? In what ways have you kicked that catty brand of negativity out of your life?


15 Comments on “Surviving the Estrogen Surge”

  1. I have one “friend” who is so competitive, jealous, and catty, it is ridiculous. She gives back handed compliments all the time. It is draining to be around her.

  2. Lindsay says:

    I had a friend in high school who was very competitive with me both academically and socially. I’m not a very competitive person, so it always made me feel very awkward whenever she got upset that I got a better score on a test than her. I stopped telling her my scores eventually. Because we hung out in the same circle friends, she always tried to make me feel left out, and it seemed to me that this was her revenge on me for beating her in the academic department. I only remedied the situation by getting away from her. She was a toxic influence, and I gave her the power to make me feel bad about myself. I now stay away from people like that. Not even worth my time…

  3. Wow. Really good post. My first year in college, I was in an all-girls dorm and it was both awesome and terrible. Although I strived hard not to have toxic relationships, I found it would be impossible to maintain friendships with all those crazy girls!! So I distanced myself from the ones that were crazy and strengthened bonds with the not so crazy (or at least the acceptable lol). I didn’t, however, compare myself to any of these girls. Everyone is different and just because the girl who lived next door to me was a size 00 didn’t mean that my size 6 jeans looked any less awesome on me 🙂

  4. yes i just ended a relationship like that this summer! VERY toxic. it was pretty one sided and she was very promiscuous and always got taken advantage of by guys. no matter how many times i tried to be the supportive friend and offer her advice when she asked, she never took my advice and made it seem like “im an angel and i do no wrong” yet i dont understand her… on top of that im smaller than her and she’s always trying to lose weight. she eats healthier than me and exercises more but ive always been naturally skinny and my frame is tinier than hers. she was always snapping at me and had a love/hate relationship which i knew wasent the best for us. so i let it go…


  5. Oh wow….what you say about how a person can channel so much energy into thinking/obsessing/angry/worrying over another – so true. In fact, my last few years have been like that. It has quite literally lead to a burnt out and exhausted body (literally). Good thing you catch it before it is too late.

  6. I was in a bit of a jealous relationship with my best friend of 11 years that ended our relationship. She had always been the one who had it all: the guy, the grades, the looks, etc. When my boyfriend and I started dating, she got really jealous and started to wreck havoc on our friendship because of it. It was really sad that our friendship had to end, but I guess if that was enough to end it then it wasn’t that strong to begin with!

  7. Personally, I don’t get along with girls as well as I do with boys- mainly for these reasons. We’re so catty, can get upset about the dumbest things, and never let go of petty little arguments. I never lived in dorms, but my freshman year I shared an apartment with two other girls. The place claimed to have a 99% matching gaurantee- I guess I was part of the unlucky 1% that didn’t get matched corretly. They got along great..but yeah, I totally didn’t click with the party-girl wild scene. Oh, and the passive aggressiveness..arrrgg!! I dont even want to think about it. :/

    It was very healthy for you to let that friendship fade. Friendship’s a lot like love in the matter that it should come easy and not hurt either person. If it doesn’t fit, then it shouldnt be.

  8. kaztronomic says:

    So true! You are so wise, and this is written exceptionally well.

    Almost every single friendship with a female that I’ve been in has been toxic, unfortunately. I guess I seek out dominant females, then unconsciously pit myself against them? I’ve broken up with so many friends, sadly. I have one real female friend right now, and even then there’s that bit of comparison that occasionally pops up. She’s a sweet girl, though, and I’m doing what I can to not let my competitive streak ruin this friendship like others have been. =)

  9. Krista says:

    This is a great post for someone just going into college. Wish I had read something like this when I was at that point!

  10. This is wonderful! You have described a dorm situation so well… fortunately I too had a fabulous experience in the freshman dorms. I became really great friends with my roommate. Our hall was really small though, and everyone pretty much kept to themselves…so I didn’t have any real social interaction with the others in my hall.
    I was in a similar friendship with someone like you described… very competitive and unhealthy- the only difference was…it was with a male! We had all of the same friends and were in a lot of classes together. Both of us were always vying for the top spot in our classes… it got to the point that one evening a group of us were studying and he started giving us WRONG INFORMATION on purpose about the topics our test was going to be about… Good thing I also studied on my own 😉 After that incident…I kind of stopped hanging out with him as much, we would just hang out in group settings and not to study! Sure enough…our friendship faded away and we no longer talk.

  11. I think every girl can identify with this post, at least to some extent. I know that I compare myself to others, so I’ve definitely felt that. I was about four inches taller than my best friends in middle school and early high school and it made me feel like this huge man and I still haven’t really gotten over that feeling – even though I know it’s not true!

    Honestly, though, a lot of these relationships have been really one-sided, where the other girl was catty and weird and I was confused because I don’t really understand girls a lot of the time.

  12. That kind of friendships are so bad for you! you deserve so much better.

    I don’t think I have ever had a jealousy based bad friendship but I have had other bad ones, which I have also let to fade out. I don’t need that bad energy around me when I can surround myself with loving, caring peopel who are good for me.

  13. Thanks for writing such an honest post. I had a very similar experience during my freshman year. It resulted in my “best friend” dumping me. However, once I moved on, I realized how toxic the relationship was. Now I know that I am better off without being part of such a strained relationship.

  14. Hayley says:

    I think that even the best of friendships can sometimes contain these moments- as in, sometimes without meaning to I’ll find myself comparing myself to a friend, even though the friendship isn’t at all toxic in itself. These are great reminders for those kinds of situations, because luckily I’ve managed to escape friendships that are like this all the time!!

  15. Jenn says:

    What a great post, Faith. This is something I think is really important to talk about. When I feel competitive I always remind myself “there is enough to go around”. Enough for her. Enough for me. Like you I find that encouraging and lifting other women up does so much to alleviate any jealousy.

    A few years ago I did end a friendship. I got sick of passive aggressive jabs and finally she showed her true colors by betraying me. I was broken hearted. It took years to heal and to this day I still find myself skimming parking lots every once in awhile to make sure she isn’t in the store I want to go in.

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