As humans, we instinctively learn through imitation. We do not merely imitate behaviors but we also imitate desire. We learn to desire the things that those around us desire. Inevitably, we’re competing over the object of that desire.
Over the last few days we have looked at two questions: Do you feel the competition for friendship and community? Do you feel that other people are getting the quantity or quality of relationships that you should be getting?
When I was in graduate school I began to develop the ability to make friends more easily than I had at any time previously. This is not to say making friends was easy for me, it’s just a way of saying that I could barely make friends at earlier life stages. In fact, for the first time (it felt like), I had a group of friends who actually seemed to like me. And then, a funny thing happened.
There were groups within the group. The group of 12 or 15 people could easily split into smaller groups of 4 or 5 on a given day, or even 2 or 3. I noticed some people within our group were much more likely to be sought out than others. Even though I was part of the group, I began to feel like a relative outsiders within the group. Weird!
What did I do? I bad mouthed some of the more popular members of the group to other members of the group. Why did I do this? I wanted what they had! I didn’t know this at the time, of course. I did not consciously set out to subterfuge my friends to push them out to create room for myself but, regardless of intentions, this is exactly what I did.
I had a taste of belonging for the first time but belonging wasn’t good enough for me because I still felt the compulsion to compete even within the context of belonging and I dragged people through the mud just to satisfy this urge. And, in the process, I didn’t make myself look too good either.