On Competition

Competition is good…or is it? When does competition become good? I mean, Is it always good and healthy to compete?

Though I grew up as a more cooperative person than a competitive one, I still somehow learned to be competitive sometimes. I probably developed my competitive attitude from my childhood involvement in sports. But that mindset is somewhat carried outside the sports arena to the different aspects of my life.


That inclination is a servant of pride, I propose. Pride found a way. It uses that competitive mentality developed in sports, and then brought it outside to other areas of our life. Perhaps that’s why we see people everyday competing with one another. They compete, in beauty, in talents, skills, positions, in popularity, even in relationships. You name it, in most areas of life people compete with each other. Why?

People naturally crave for recognition, for appreciation and acceptance. These feelings—of being recognized, appreciated and accepted—feeds our self-worth. It feeds our ego, our pride. Because our society has managed to create a culture that only the winners are recognized, appreciated and rewarded, we become competitive. We learned very early in life that if we are not better than others, we will not be easily accepted.

People have so embraced the idea of competition and forgot that in our daily life, in most of our daily activities, what we need is to cooperate and not to compete. Why? Maybe because we want to be accepted. We want to belong. We think that to win is the only way to be cheerfully welcomed. So we compete to win.

Win-lose Attitude

In all competitions, the lingering attitude is win-lose attitude. If one has to win, the others have to lose. In chess, in football, in all other sports, win-lose attitude is the only acceptable attitude. You cannot think win-win or there will be a tie. You can never think lose-win: why in the first place did you join the competition if you prefer to lose in order for your opponent to win?

How about in beauty pageant? Isn’t It the same, all other contestants have to lose so the best is the only one to be crowned?

Let’s take a look at the school. Can you say you passed the subject if you know nobody is failing the subject? You become number one only because others are not number one. You win only because they lose.

Players compete for the trophies; contestants for the medals and recognition. Churches compete each other in terms of the volume of their members; business organizations with income and market share; celebrities and politicians for their popularity; speakers in their audience; writers compete through their published materials; bloggers with the number of their followers and hits; co-employees in terms of the favors they receive from their bosses.

Even brothers and sisters compete for their mother’s attention. The list goes on and on in an almost never-ending possibilities. One thing is sure: we always compete. We develop win-lose attitude because we have a scarcity mentality. We think that recognition is scarce—that only a few will be crowned. But we, as a society are the very ones who created the idea that only the best will be recognized. We become afraid of our own shadow.


Why do we compete too much? Maybe one reason is survival. But wait, isn’t it that people will have greater chance of survival when they cooperate instead of compete?

Survival may have a point of argument. Two people starving to death will surely compete for a piece of bread or for a few drops of water, otherwise, they both die. Granted. Well, that maybe accepted if the case is a matter of life and death. But in the office, at home, in school, most of our situations are not a matter of life-and-death situation. Then why do we compete? Why do we always want to be ahead of others?

When then?

I believe competition is good and healthy if and only if we can keep it inside its appropriate venue. In sports and entertainment, competition is healthy and fun. It helps the players to be responsible for their development. But in the office, in the church, in school, it becomes ineffective, counterproductive, sometimes even dangerous.

In most cases in our daily living, to cooperate is more needed and more appropriate than to compete. Let us keep competition within the boundaries of sports, and within the confines of the entertainment world.

We really want to compete? Try the following mentality and we will never run out of worthwhile competitions:

If I can defeat others, I am strong; if I can defeat myself, I am stronger.

Why is that?

Because the greatest battle we can ever have is within.

5 thoughts on “On Competition

  1. Competition is good to ensure we strive for continual improvement. You are right, it is ourselves we need to beat to ensure we do not become lazy and stagnant.
    I enjoyed your post, very thoughtfully presented.

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed it Maggie!
      That’s true, we need to prevent ourselves from becoming lazy and stagnant. 🙂
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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