I have a friend I have coffee with once a month or so. We recently started hanging out because she shares many of my interests – particularly spiritual interests. At first, it was really cool to talk with some who “got it.” But lately I’ve started to feel like we’re competing: who meditates more, who does more yoga classes, etc. I want to say that she’s the one who’s competitive, but I also know that when she starts talking about how spiritual she is, I get defensive and want to show how spiritual I am too. Then I feel bad and “unspiritual” for being competitive about being spiritual. Can you shed any perspective on this situation?
Competitive and Caffeinated in Colorado
Dear Competitive and Caffeinated,
Oh, how I wish I could say I have no idea what you’re talking about. Alas, I might be doing the same competitive thing. And, in this case, also lying.
Here is my perspective.
As humans, we need love. It is one of our primary and primal requirements. We also need to belong. These two needs are connected to our survival and drive most behavior. Our being thinks it is threatened any time it perceives that we might not have these things. Indeed, it would be!
I think the fulfillment of both of these essential needs can become threatened when we are hanging out with someone we care about who is boasting.
We need our friends to know that we are as good as them, so they know that we fit with them. If they were far superior to us, then we wouldn’t belong with them. If we didn’t belong, it could ultimately mean death. (Back in the day, this was quite true – a human not in a tribe would certainly perish. Today, it can appear to be different, but the deep need remains.)
Add to this the part of you that starts to think it might be less deserving of love because of (the momentary experience of) your friend’s possible superiority. We need our friends to know that we, too, deserve love and admiration!
When we have any belief of possible unworthiness, it can be triggered without our being consciously aware of it.
In a conversation, it can all happen so fast. And then suddenly, even as we wonder why the heck we’re saying what we are, we find ourselves bragging! But behind this response is a domino-effect of emotions and needs that are being triggered and threatened.
So what do we do with all this?
Being aware is key! And you already have this, which is why you wrote. Congratulations!
From here, I recommend the gentle-with-me approach. (Hint: I will pretty much always recommend this approach.)
For instance, next time you’re with this person and they start to brag about their yoga prowess, you might turn within and silently send some extra love to your inner insecurities. A simple “I see you and I love you and I know you’re awesome!,” will do.
When I’ve been able to do this, I’ve found that I am then able to – with an authentic lightness of mood – express to my friend what’s happening for me emotionally. I might say, “You want to hear something kind of funny? I noticed that as you were telling me about that, I really wanted to start to brag about this.”
It could even be a moment when your friend will notice her own stance of superiority. If she doesn’t, you can tell yourself that you can acknowledge your feelings in the situation better than she can, because you’re more evolved than she is! (And if this doesn’t make you smile, right in the middle of it all, then I don’t know what will!)
Blessings and Love in all you do,
How do you handle spiritual competition? Share your comments below!
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