Competition Freaks: Alicia and Alice

"My mom is the most competitive person ever. She can suck the fun out of anything," says 18-year-old Alice. "My mom won't accept losing to anyone, even kids." Her mom, Alicia, taught her to play tennis when she was 8 and beat her every time. "My mom would just slam those balls across the net. I would get upset and cry and say, 'Please Mom, let me win just one time.' And she would say, 'No, I'm not going to let you win. Absolutely not,'" Alice explains. Her mother also helped her learn to become a soccer goalie. "My mom wanted to get that ball past me," Alice says. "My mom could make even just kicking the ball to me into a game where one person could do better than the other."

 

"I always have to be the best," admits Alicia. "I can make anything a contest ... It's hard not to be driven 24 hours a day."

 

"With my mom, every board game becomes a fight to the death," Alice continues. She and her mom often get into heated games of Scrabble. "I was winning and she said to me, 'You don't read nearly as much as I do. You've read, like, three books in your life. I have an MBA and I have a better vocabulary than you. How in the world

can you be beating me?'" One time, when Alice and her friend were playing pool, her friend put the ball on the table in the wrong place and Alicia interrupted their game. "She said, 'No, you can't put that ball there,' and my friend just stood stunned," Alice explains.

 

Alicia's competitive nature also interferes with her social life. She has been divorced for 10 years, but has only been on three dates. "Part of it is that I would want to be perfect at it, and I'd want to get an A. I'd want to be the best date they'd ever gone out with, whether or not I liked them or not," she explains. "I'm so competitive, that even right now I want Dr. Phil to give me an A."

"My mom's competitiveness can be a strain on our relationship because I don't want to participate in certain activities with her," Alicia admits, turning to Dr. Phil for help. "My mom has a lot of trouble living in the moment and taking things for what they are. It's always about what's the outcome going to be ... I wish she could just chill out."

 

Dr. Phil asks Alicia what she has learned from his conversation with the previous guests.

"It's incredibly hurtful to myself as well as to the people around me to be so competitive," Alicia says. "It's toxic."

Dr. Phil explains that his and Robin's goal in raising their sons, Jay and Jordan, was to make sure they were confident, secure, safe and able to deal in the world. "How do you square up using a child in competition to make you feel better about you?"

"I didn't do it so much to make me feel good about me," Alicia says, explaining that her extraordinarily competitive nature has
helped her succeed in the workplace, but she can't turn it off when she gets home.

"Yes, you can!" Dr. Phil tells her. "You do it everywhere. Everything's a competition with you." He reminds her that one time when she was volunteering she said, "I have got to be the one who gives out the most food at the shelter."

"I never got to enjoy being there or being with the people at the shelter," Alicia agrees.

"You took a spin class and you couldn't walk for three days because you couldn't let the instructor outdo you?" Dr. Phil asks, surprised.

"Exactly. It's true," Alicia says.

When Dr. Phil asks Alice for her thoughts she says, "It's irritating, but really I just want her to be able to be happy and enjoy her life and calm down ... this is not making her happy at all."

When Alicia plays a board game, she doesn't like to talk because she focused on winning, and she must beat whomever she plays.

"It's not necessarily winning, it's the fact that I really want to play seriously and try to win every time. I can't just play for fun," Alicia explains.

"What do you get out of it?" Dr. Phil asks.

"It's a good feeling to win," Alicia says. "It's a high."

 

Dr. Phil plays a tape showing how extreme Alicia's competitive nature can be.

"My friend and I are both buying condos in the same building. I immediately made up this contest, with a fruit basket as the prize, that I could find more people to buy condos in our building than my friend could or that anybody else could," Alicia explains. "I don't really want the fruit basket, that's not the point. I want to win. There's no prize and there is no contest. I made it up!"

"You said, 'I can't turn it off.' It's not about turning it off, you're out creating competitions," Dr. Phil says to Alicia. "What are you trying to prove?" He explains that she is looking for external validation.

"Nothing that I know of," Alicia says. "I have always been this way."

"You are a free-thinking adult who can make a life decision," Dr. Phil points out to Alicia. "You say you want to be the

best? Then why don't you make the goal of being the best-balanced mother, the most self-accepting individual. If you want a competition, why don't you compete for mental health? Because it's not mentally healthy to stress yourself with competition all the time." She needs to learn to relax and be at peace with who
she is in the world. "What if you made that your goal?"


"I think that would be really healthy," Alicia says, explaining that her competitive nature is a big burden on her, because she is always preoccupied with the next thing she can win.

Dr. Phil offers Alicia advice. "What I want you to think about and try to embrace is that you can feel enough acceptance of yourself that you don't have to earn your right to be loved by your daughter. You don't have to earn your right to be in your family. You don't have to walk into a room and earn acceptance. Sometimes you just let it come to you," he tells her.