Competitive:

1 : of or relating to a situation in which people or groups are trying to win a contest or be more successful than others
2 : having a strong desire to win or be the best at something

Lately, I have been thinking a bit about how I feel about competition. I truly feel that the need to compete with others in our daily lives can get in the way of happiness and peace of mind.

I am not speaking of a soccer match or a game show. That type of competition serves itself well and many friends and family have enjoyed competitive sports and such in their lives.

Although I have not played one in a long time, I used to play several role playing and card games at game conventions and  friend’s houses. If and when I would win, my lack of competitive spirit sometimes ticked off those who were disappointed to lose. On more than one occasion some guy would stomp away or pound the table if he lost and instead of gloating at my win, I shook my head at his need to get so angry about a game.

I played the games for the fun, companionship and some intellectual stimulation. I never played with the intent to merely WIN. Not only does that prospect bore me to death, but I don’t think I grew up with an inherit need to compete. I just didn’t. More on that later. I competed and sometimes won, sometimes lost. Both felt equally satisfying as long as I had fun in the process.

Our Capitalistic society is founded on the concept of competition and we seek to win in education, commerce and world power.

The type of competition I want to write about today is none of the above.

When I woke up this morning I felt compelled to see what Khrisnamurti had to say on the subject.

‘competition is the very essence of violence […]
Our whole social structure is based on competition and we accept it as inevitable’ (ibid.).

Recently, I was told that everyone is competitive, that everyone tries to win. I was told that all people desire to compete or win in verbal discourse.

To the contrary, I feel no pull to compete or need to win when I am having a conversation or disagreement with another. My lack of an aggressive competitive spirit has been berated, laughed at and found suspect by some.

It is true, in my opinion, that society has taught us to constantly compete for everything from a mate to a job to the prize of winning an argument. But, I somehow avoided taking that on as one of my individual personality traits. I can and will compete when it is healthy and appropriate, but I don’t see personal competition as something I need or want to engage in.

How is that, you say? Well, that’s what I want to explore..

‘You can live happily in this competitive world
only if you yourself are not competitive’ (ibid.).

~Khrishnamurti

Just as Khrishnamurti believed that happiness is linked to living life in a non-competitive way, it has been my observation that competing in interpersonal relations causes nothing but unhappiness and strife.

If I pull back and try to look at the whole thing objectively, with discernment not judgment, I find that there may be a few past experiences/conditions which can help dictate whether a person becomes competitive(in this context) or not.

1) Did the individual get what they perceived as “enough” attention, acceptance and acknowledgment from the adults around them when they were growing up?

2) Did the individual have significant experiences of rejection as a child or adult?

3) Was there verbal and/or physical abuse or addiction in the household?

Listen, I am no Psychologist, nor am I some self help expert. All I know is what I have observed in those around me and in myself.

About me:  From about 2 yrs. old, I grew up in a household where I was the only child. My sister and brother( he has since crossed over) lived in NYC with my father. I lived with my mother, and later (at around 5) my mother’s long term boyfriend lived with us until I was 16. My parents had divorced when I was 2, so their divorce had a scant impact on me at the time.

As I grew up my mother and I were very close and as an “only child” in the household by default I got all of the attention. Even when my siblings would visit I never felt a lack or vacuum of attention, acceptance and acknowledgment. When I was 13, and my sister came to live with us, I still never felt compelled to compete with her for my mother’s attention. I had the normal self esteem issues any teen does, but they were almost all related to acceptance by my peers. There were a few years where I felt like an outcast, but most creative and eclectic folks I know had this experience as well.

Although imperfect as any household, my home life was full of love, acceptance, attention, affection, joy and acknowledgment.

Without going into a long story of other’s childhood’s being not so full of these things and why, let’s suffice it to say that I am grateful and feel blessed to have had the childhood I had and strongly feel that the presence of these emotional and intellectual supports have allowed me to avoid the need to compete in interpersonal relations.

In the absence of any or all of these things, can a person grow up to have a high enough self esteem/ self acceptance that they accept other’s as having various separate perspectives and opinions without feeling diminished by them? I don’t know.

From what I have observed in those who I have crossed paths with and gotten to know fairly well, the people who feel the need to compete the most fiercely had to compete for attention, acceptance and acknowledgment as children and may have experienced a traumatic rejection or two as a child and/or adult. They also may have been verbally, sexually or physically abused…but that factor does not have to be present.

People who seem to compete in interpersonal relations range from a sibling who sees another sibling as being a favorite(and sometimes they are right/sometimes wrong) to a person who will argue and argue until either the other concedes to the competitive person is right or gives up. Then, there are the extremes…look at the description of “hyper-competitiveness”  from an article in Wikipedia:

Hyper-competitiveness

The tendency toward extreme, unhealthy competition has been termed hyper-competitiveness. This concept originated in Karen Horney’s theories on neurosis; specifically, the highly aggressive personality type which is characterized as “moving against people”. In her view, some people have a need to compete and win at all costs as a means of maintaining their self-worth. These individuals are likely to turn any activity into a competition, and they will feel threatened if they find themselves losing. Researchers have found that men and women who score high on the trait of hyper-competitiveness are more narcissistic and less psychologically healthy than those who score low on the trait.[10] Hyper-competitive individuals generally believe that “winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing”.

How many hyper-competitive folks have you engaged with in your life? My guess…a few. When engaging in discourse with a highly competitive person, they may well see you as trying to “make” them wrong. Another trait that seems to go hand in hand with this is the view that if someone else has success, they fail. If someone else is very attractive, they are less attractive. If someone else is smart, they must be less so. Their  self esteem seems to be linked to their comparison of themselves to others, whether conscious of it or not. Khrisnamurti wrote on this extensively.

 

So there is in our life this constant state of comparison, competition, and the everlasting struggle to be somebody – or to be nobody, which is the same thing. This, I feel, is the root of all fear because it breeds envy, jealousy, hatred. Where there is hatred, there is obviously no love, and fear is generated more and more. COMPLETE TALK HERE

 

Fear eh? Interesting…

My goal is writing this is to try to get a handle on why this interaction exists and how and why I don’t feel this compulsion. I think I accomplished what I sought out to learn. This, as most things in life, will be an ongoing lesson for me. 

But, what I do know is this: My opinion about disagreements, at this point in my life, is that rarely does anyone need to be right…rarely does there have to be a winner…and NEVER will competition in such situations end in communion(aka healthy two way communication) and cooperation. Those “C” words are what I seek!

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1 Comment on Competitive: The Other “C” Word

  1. […] comes up as a theme from time to time. I have written about it before on my personal blog. Competitive: The Other “C” Word. You can read a longer explanation of my perspective on competition.  ‘You can live happily […]

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