Mental Health

Competition (The Good, The Bad and The Ugly)

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I was raised playing sports. Not just a few sports, I have been playing soccer for 17 years now, I played lacrosse for 7 years, Baseball for 6 years, and a multitude of other sports as well. And I have a craving for winning all the time!

One of the hardest things I had to learn was to play sports for ‘fun’ or ‘enjoyment’.

My coaches have always told me that the fun comes in winning the game and that it’s not how you play, but whether you win or lose that defines you.

As scary as that is, I kept that policy for most of my life; the only thing that mattered was being first and being the best.

I’m sure you can imagine what going through school, friendships, video games and anything else remotely competitive was like for me.

In brief, there are a few things about competition that are ‘good’. One is that it pushes you all the time to not only do well but do the best. The ‘bad’ is, though, that when everything is a competition it is difficult to enjoy what you are doing (especially when you don’t win). The ‘ugly’ is when you make things a competition that were never intended to be competitive – like getting girls, for example.

To go into more detail…

The Good:

Well, the great thing about always being in competition is that you are always pushing yourself to be the best that you can be.

In College Pro, I was always in competition to be the BEST salesmen or the top rookie. For school, I will push myself to do the best on certain assignments. For soccer, I would push myself to be the most aggressive and strongest player. Now I do not always achieve these goals but that is what I aim for.

Competition is a great thing when used wisely.

For example, my mom is a high school principal and she told me that the moment you create a ‘competition’ for guys in a class, their attention is entirely focused on winning. And this definitely works for me – especially if you tell me that I can’t do it;  If you tell me I cannot get an A in a class, I will get that A!

So there are some positives to being competitive, but I am still learning how to use this “Weakness” to my advantage….

The Bad:

The bad is that I have an incredibly hard time finding enjoyment in things, especially sports.

With sports I have such a hard time enjoying them unless I am winning. One of the hardest things for me to learn since joining intramurals is that I do not have to win or be the best to enjoy playing the game.

These ‘bad’ aspects of competition have caused me a fair amount of stress because it is not healthy to be fixated on being a ‘VIP’.

Yes, there is something good in trying to be the best you can be, but it is not good when you get fixated upon it and don’t see how good you actually are.

The Ugly:

I wish there was a harsher word I could use to describe this level of competition, but unfortunately ‘the ugly’ will have to do. This is when I create a competition out of things that should NEVER be a challenge or competition. Here are a few things that I do this with (and am working hard to stop competing over):

  • Girls
  • Religion
  • Caring
  • Helping others
  • the list goes on…

If you are reading these things, these are things you do NOT want to make into a competition.

When you start creating competition of things like these, that’s when it gets scary.

You lose the enjoyment you get out of relationships, religion, being a friend and making a difference.

When that starts happening, an automatic red flag should go up.

Good things can still come about through negative intention, but when doing good because a competition, then that feeling of doing something ‘good’ that one normally gets is not there at all.

It is a scary feeling when you help someone and do not feel good about it because you feel there is more you could have done, that you could have helped more people or had a bigger impact. Suddenly, nothing you ever do is good enough. You’re playing a game you will never win…

Does that sound even remotely healthy to you?

Do not get my wrong, competition can be great, however, like most things in life, it is how you use it that determines whether it is or not.

It has taken me a long time to recognize that I love competition way too much, but now that I know it, the next step is what I am going to do with this knowledge.

Knowledge is only useful if you use it to help, build up or make something better.

I am using competition as an example of where I struggle, but how about those of you reading this – what is your “Achilles tendon”? (Reference to Troy) What is your weak area where you can see something you’re doing that could be good, but, based on how you are using it, is for the most part ‘bad’, or maybe even downright ugly?

Christian struggled through and recovered from depression. He likes to write so others can hear his story and know there is hope. His goal is that through sharing, people will be able to see their story within his own.

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