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Downside of Competitive Mentality

Updated on October 12, 2018
ValKaras profile image

Val is a life-long practically oriented student of effective emotional and attitudinal responses to the many challenges of life.

Is Our Cheering at Games Coming from Playfulness or from a Lack of Winning in Life?
Is Our Cheering at Games Coming from Playfulness or from a Lack of Winning in Life?

Not All Competitions Are Alike

Whenever competitiveness comes up as a subject of a conversation, I may say something like: "I am only competing with my yesteryear self". However, this is not to be understood as my general position about all competitions.

Of course---in sports, economy, friendly games, and possibly in some other areas of human collective activities that momentarily don't come to mind, competition is the crucial factor. What I am addressing here is a certain flaw in our personality makeup which seems to underlie so many destructive phenomena of interacting.

Even on the global scale we are displaying this somewhat crazy tendency by competing in armament, sabotaging and ridiculing one another's popularity, and not to forget that most shameful one---competition among religions.

Spouses May Be in a Competition without Being Aware of It
Spouses May Be in a Competition without Being Aware of It

Marital Power Games

We may start our observation by noticing the ugly face of competitiveness in the most basic of all institutions---marriage. I didn't need all those movie dramas and comedies to recognize its crazy dynamics, because in my relatively long life I have seen just enough examples of the spouses intentionally, or even unknowingly, fighting for an upper hand in their relationship.

It may take various forms, like---who is supposed to call the shots in important decisions because of a bigger income or education, whose authority is to be obeyed by kids, and even whose political party is making more sense.

Then it can also stretch over their respective families---whose family is smarter, more helpful, more successful, as that as well somehow means an "advantage" over the other spouse. However, the ugliest feature of their competitiveness is bribing the kids in their covert popularity contest to take their side, while ridiculing or criticizing the "shortcomings" of their other parent.

Competition between Religions Is against Their Basic Tenets of Love and Tolerance
Competition between Religions Is against Their Basic Tenets of Love and Tolerance

Closed-Minded Crusaders

Talking about churches, temples, synagogues, and mosques, it's hard not to see this fanatical competitive intolerance going on, while each is claiming their god to be the only right one, and their teaching the only correct one.

A believer that would be deserving of some respect would follow to the letter their holy book that preaches about love for all human beings; would not impose their faith onto others; would be fundamentally positive, with no mention of evil, sin, guilt, hell, or alike.

Furthermore, such a believer could easily engage in religious discussions, as they would have nothing to "prove" to others, but would exchange ideas, find similarities, and take a position of someone who wants to learn, not to preach with a desperate need to come out as a "winner".

To them it would be far more important "what" is right than "who" is right. Competitions in such debates usually are pointing at individuals whose religion serves them as emotional crutches, rather than being their faith preference.

Sometimes Friendship Is Based on a Need to Have someone to Compete With
Sometimes Friendship Is Based on a Need to Have someone to Compete With

Friends - Masters of Competition

Who hasn't seen this competitive spirit among friends, the one that could almost serve as a definition of competitiveness.

Standing proud in their ivory tower of importance they may not even be aware that they are competing. And even less are they aware of their competing spirit being generated by a deep seated insecurity that has a need to be compensated by some advantages over you.

So much of materialistic tendencies would diminish if people knew that they are just trying to add something to their stature, their personal value, by adding possessions to their lot and advertising it among friends.

It gets even comical at times when you take a holiday, and right after they have to take it too; you buy a carpet and they buy a sofa. Then, they may also compete using their kids, by giving them piano or violin, or ballet lessons, or enlisting them into a sports club. At times it makes you wonder if they are real friends, or they merely need you for their sparring partners in their silly game of patching up their insecurities.

Like Monkeys Counting Their "Trophies", Some of Us Find Delight in Their Imaginary Advantages
Like Monkeys Counting Their "Trophies", Some of Us Find Delight in Their Imaginary Advantages

Monkey Business

Sometimes I entertain myself by comparing competitive folks to monkeys, who also don't show much tolerance for a neighboring pack showing off with their pretty females or more banana trees, or something.

Could it be in our animalistic portion of the brain that we need a special status in the herd? I wish I knew more about monkeys, other than those similarities that I have noticed in intelligence of some human specimens, particularly leaders with their oversized need to be an "alpha in the pack", or those machos advertising their masculinity and arrogance.

My intuition is somehow telling me that competitiveness is not typical for those homo sapiens genes in us, and there must be a primate screaming out from us every time when we see ourselves "better humans" than someone else around us.

Our Pathetic Competitiveness Doesn't Stop even at those against whom We Could Never Compete
Our Pathetic Competitiveness Doesn't Stop even at those against whom We Could Never Compete

A Mismatch Not Worth Competing

As I am having fun with these speculative thoughts, my mind takes me to another area where we show off our superior qualities---as we take Hollywood's position about those hypothetical (or real) extraterrestrials and their "inferior" abilities to conquer us.

A simple logic would tell us how naïve we are in our cosmic competitiveness. Namely, if those ET's wanted to kick our arrogant asses, they could do it before we would know what's hitting us. Just think of the technology that would make it possible for them to come this far, and that possibly hundred thousand years long civilization that flourished on their planet prior to that visit.

No matter what "cosmic primate" they happened to evolve from, that long time must have made their "monkey-brain" obsolete. For that very reason, our sense of morality couldn't possibly compete with theirs, for the simple logic that they coexisted and survived for all those many millennia. Will we? I hope so.

A Goal Worth Pursuing Is  Advancing Ourselves in any Small or Big Way  -  without Putting others Down in the Process
A Goal Worth Pursuing Is Advancing Ourselves in any Small or Big Way - without Putting others Down in the Process

Aiming at Self-Improvement, Not at Winning

When I said at the beginning that I am only competing with my yesteryear self, I forgot to mention how I am trying to be a good sport in that competition. That is to say that I am not putting down those previous versions of myself as "bad and crying for an improvement".

The focus is not on "running away from", but rather "eagerly aiming at" - while leaving my previous selves as they were back in the past, with acceptance, understanding, and love which we usually give to kids who don't know any better.

I am simply exploring the ways of becoming a better human being. It's not a hobby but a way of life, as I can't see myself just as a part of statistics of eating, working, sleeping, procreating, retiring, and gracefully dying.

Also, "Striving towards perfection" is not my game. No striving, and no perfection. For, my intuition is telling me that any major inner change in order to happen has to happen with ease, not by a strain. And as for perfection, being perfect would mean a very lonely life, so I am quite content being imperfect, and there are always enough of those around to remind me that I am.

In the spirit of all this, I am far from ever competing with others with my personal importance. So, if anyone ever gets an opposite impression---I'm glad to give it to them in advance right here in writing---THEY WIN (and I don't lose).

Peace at Heart and on the Planet Comes from Respect for Self and Others
Peace at Heart and on the Planet Comes from Respect for Self and Others

The Source of Real Power

It is my wish to meet on my path more of those folks whose good heart and spirituality is propelling them towards their own betterment, so they can serve as an example and a reminder that such a thing is possible.

And not only possible, but maybe one of the crucial attitudes in our future survival over all existing aspects of greed, prestige, power-games, and intolerance that are not really worthy our dignified place in this universe.

Let us not forget that in so many cases our need to compete is merely a sign of our weakness, not our strength, and the more triumphs and trophies we have collected, the further we are alienating ourselves from our inner human need for peace, happiness, and acceptance of ourselves and others.


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    • ValKaras profile imageAUTHOR

      Vladimir Karas 

      2 years ago from Canada

      Trying to match the title of this hub with what is happening on Q. & A. with all that circus of outsmarting - makes me laugh; and deep down I know that you are laughing with me.

      But you must admit, it's fun, isn't it?

      Just look at my provocative questions about religion. All those years of self-discipline, of gazing at the wall for what seemed like eternity and sweating bullets while destroying that ego in myself - and then look at me joining a silly game of exposing religious hurting egos...well, why not? As long as there are beautiful souls like yours that will understand, it's O.K.

      Thank you, Besarien for being who you are.

    • Besarien profile image


      2 years ago

      More a cheerleader than a competitor, especially when it comes to friends, family, and neighbors. Agree it has its place out there in the jungle but gets pretty silly in the village. "Only competing with my yesteryear's self" sounds way more fun and inspiring premise for a reality show than "Keeping up with the Kardashians" any day. Another thought provoking hub that was a real joy to read.

    • ValKaras profile imageAUTHOR

      Vladimir Karas 

      2 years ago from Canada

      Paula...Your looks are only exceeded by your wisdom, and I will keep saying it one way or another until you stop seeing some empty compliments in it and start considering that I might be right. Just kidding, you already know I am right.

      How long do we give a baby to start walking before we "give up" on him? We never give up. So, we owe the same to ourselves, with the only difference that now no one is there to pick us up and to wipe our tears off - we've got to do it ourselves. And that difference justifies all our pride when we make those first steps. Growing is a divine adventure, indeed! - Be well, Paula. Val.

    • fpherj48 profile image


      2 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      You've given your readers much to contemplate once again, Val. Yes, I do suspect that human nature carries with it a certain tendency to competitiveness, especially during youth. It's been many decades since I participated in athletic activities, but it was always a thrill to win a game.

      In my own experience I find that I too, just seem to hope to better my previous self or prior successes. It's that daily knowledge we acquire and quest to gain more wisdom that keeps us going.

      If not for mistakes or tripping and falling now and then, the journey would be dull and boring indeed! Thanks for a pleasant read. Paula

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      2 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Wonderful! My monkey keeps trying to come out of retirement, it is a full time job keeping him relaxed. I like to compete as long as the winner is the one who goes home with the most new knowledge.

      "I am better than you" -- what a strange notion. "I am better than you at" probably fair game. I am not sure I want to give up on competition. I run faster when my son is running faster. Much to think about, thank you


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