We love to see the excitement and drama of competition. Whether it’s in the sports arena, the world of business or during family board games, we seem to love to compete. But does “competing” with others have a dark side where there are no real winners? My experience as a former psychotherapist and now as a coach leads me to say “Yes.”
Here are three ways competition can be toxic (and what you can do about it):
When your self-worth is on the line
If we try to feel good about ourselves from our performance we’re going to be disappointed sooner or later–our performance is never perfectly constant. If you feel good about yourself when you win but feel shame when you lose, you self-worth will always be up and down.
Solution: Start with strong self-worth instead of trying to earn it and you’ll have better performance as a bonus. Learn to feel good about yourself independent of work, status, titles or “gold medals.”
When your self-confidence suffers
If you’re not better than someone in a given matter, whether at work or home, does your self-confidence take a hit or is it fuel for you to continue to learn and grow? If your confidence lags when you “lose” a competition, how is that helpful in your performance efforts?
Solution: Base your confidence on your effort, persistence and love of what you’re doing, not on results at any given moment. Be confident that as you keep honing your skill, you will continue to improve.
When it affects your relationships
Competition can bring out the worst in us when our self-worth and self-confidence is at stake. Have you ever been a part of a family gathering where tempers flared because someone “hated losing”? We speak of “friendly competition” but what do we mean by that? If I feel superior to you because I’m better at something than you are, how does that help us to be friends?
Solution: See the other person or group as helping you to improve your skills, not as a measurement of your worth when you “win” or “lose.” Stop competing and start doing what you’re inspired to do and love to do. What more could we want?