Growing up, competition was considered a good thing, healthy even. As a visible minority I was told I had to be better than the rest, because nothing was going to come easy to me, and I was going to need the upper hand intellectually in order to achieve the success I wanted. To be honest, I used to categorize this “warning” as one of my parents rants on the importance of education and never took it too seriously. Thankfully, getting good grades was never a struggle for me, so I never saw myself as having to fight or compete with my peers in such a serious, life altering way.
That doesn’t mean to say that I wasn’t competitive. As an only child, I didn’t have brothers or sisters to compete with, but I did compete with my male cousins in particular. There were good at science, so I had to prove I could be good at science too, and started entering science fairs (and doing pretty well!). A young feminist, I always wanted to show that I, as a girl, could do anything the boys could do, if not better! Unfortunately, that didn’t include baseball, since I never could manage not to throw the ball “like a girl”!
I am a lover of many sports. I grew up watching baseball, CFL and NFL football with my dad, along with boxing and wrestling. I cheered for my teams when they were winning, and of course, like any “true” fan, was disappointed by the losses. I never imagined myself to be a true fanatic, screaming at the television when things didn’t go my teams’ way. I remember, however, my mother on more than one occasion coming to my room asking me what I was getting so heated about! As I got older, I found myself disliking certain players simply because of what team they played for (what other reason was there, it isn’t like I knew them personally?), and at some point, it hit me that this was all a bit crazy!
I stopped watching professional sports for a while because I realized I was embarrassed by how attached I was to the outcome of the games. I wasn’t betting on these events, nor was I fortunate enough to be an owner, so why was I hurling expletives at the referee for what I considered to be a bad call? Why was I getting angry at the player who missed a “simple” jump shot? It was time to check myself and it made me wonder what the big deal is?
Unless you’re playing soccer or hockey, ties are an unacceptable way for a game to end, so there has got to be a loser. While no one goes into a game thinking they are going to come out on the losing side, the reality is, someone has to lose. First place doesn’t mean much if no one came in second or third, does it?
While I acknowledge that my attachment to professional sports wasn’t contributing to healthy blood pressure, what’s more troubling is how this competitive spirit affects our personal lives. Whether it’s fighting for a parking spot, or to get that popular, but rare toy on Christmas Eve at the mall, it seems so much of our lives has become a competition. It is no longer about keeping up with the Jones’, it’s about being better than them. Bigger homes, nicer cars, smarter or more athletic kids or even a greener lawn – everything has become a competition.
Some may argue that competition has its benefits. The motivation to do as well as someone else, if not better is a good thing, right? What’s wrong with striving to improve one’s life? I don’t believe there is anything wrong with wanting to improve our lives. Where I think things start to get ugly is when we believe our growth or improvement can’t happen in parallel with someone else’s, but must happen instead of another’s success.
This kind of competitiveness, from my perspective, is counter-productive. It reinforces this “us versus them” mentality that doesn’t lend to cooperation of any kind, the idea that we all cannot succeed at the same time in our own way doesn’t resonate with me. It is possible for us all to reach our highest potential without it being a detriment to anyone. I think that we just need to shift our focus from the negative aspects of competition and look at competition as a challenge to uncover our greatest abilities and encourage one another instead of looking at things in terms of winners and losers. It is time to start building each other up rather than putting one another down! ♥