If you are are a competitive person, this will hopefully make a lot of sense. If you’re not, it might sound like the ramblings of a madman.
For as long as I can remember, I have been an over-competitive person. I love to test my mettle against other people and new challenges of any kind.
Challenging me to a game of Monopoly is an exercise in endurance. Nobody is leaving the board until someone owns it all. There is one winner and everyone else loses.
Why am I like this? Honestly, I think it comes down to insecurity.
I was a quiet, shy, awkward kid. I wasn’t any good at sports, and I wasn’t cool.
But if I was ‘good’ at something, then that thing became my life. I was an advanced reader in the 5th grade, and nobody could ‘beat’ me in vocabulary or comprehension tests. I was good at Street Fighter II at the video arcades in my early teens, and would play for hours challenging anyone who tried to beat me.
In these realms I was a king of a tiny little kingdom.
But I loved it. I craved it. I became addicted to it. Thus, the over-competitive urge grew in me.
It’s only in the last few years, as I’ve hit some setbacks that I’ve started to see how my competitive nature has both a benefit and a curse.
Benefit: It drives me to get incredible results. I push myself well beyond what most people will do, and I simply won’t quit until I master something. This means I have grown as a speaker, business consultant, salesperson, marketer and in many other areas very quickly.
Curse: It makes me incredibly jealous and resentful. If I don’t achieve what I want (i.e. I don’t ‘win’) I start to get angry. Angry at myself, angry at the ‘system’ and I waste tremendous energy brooding the loss. Even worse, if I see others who have what I want, I find it hard to be happy for them. I become a petulant child who wants his toys.
Because of this realization, I’ve really been looking at what makes me an over-competitive person. Here is what I came up with:
The Love of a Challenge
I believe that most people enjoy rising to a challenge, but some people are more built this way than others. Speaking for myself, if I see something in front of me that I think will grow my skills or abilities, I often get very excited. I want to climb the new mountain and find the next horizon. When I set my mind on a new challenge, I get obsessive for a while and want to devote a lot of time and energy to the challenge.
Overall, this is probably a positive part of being competitive as through challenges I have become stronger as a person, and a bigger contributor to the world. It also makes me feel very alive.
The Need to be Important and Be Noticed
This is probably the most embarrassing to admit, but my drive to be competitive comes from a need to be noticed by others. I want people to see me doing good, and being a person of accomplishment. In essence, I want to be important.
I want them to be engaged in what I am doing, and this is easier to achieve if I find a way to make it competitive.
At the core, this is a narcissistic need that is not easy to fight. It takes a lot of courage to admit I need to be important and be noticed. But that is the truth.
Seeking Validation through External Means
The concept of ‘winning’ is one that permeates our society. The need to be viewed as a winner in some way (or many ways) can become a disease in itself.
The challenge with this one is that the more you achieve (i.e. ‘win’) the more it becomes important to keep ‘winning’. Being a winner becomes somehow wrapped up with your identity and you can’t separate from it. If you don’t win, it makes you desperate for another win. You are like a junky craving the next hit. The next win must be bigger than the last loss.
Of course, any achievement is simply a form of external validation. You don’t need it, but it feels good and people recognize you for it.
The Fear of Being ‘Average’
For me, as a competitive person, I have a huge fear of being ranked the same as everyone else. My ultimate sense of failure is to simply be a part of the crowd and not acknowledged as special in some way. Of course, this is a true narcissistic trait and one that is terrifying to admit publicly.
By acknowledging this irrational need to ‘not be average’ I can see how much it drives my competitiveness. The irony is that by trying not to be something, we are holding onto the fear and it is creating a negative focus point.
I realizing as I write this that this might be my most self-indulgent blog post to date, so please forgive me. Essentially, I am trying to work through this idea out loud. As author Stephen King once said ‘Writing is refined thinking.’
That’s my aim here with understanding my over competitive nature. I am finding by admitting fault about my weaknesses they have less of a hold over me.
The desire to compete is something that has positives and negatives. I honestly think for me this will continue to be a challenge throughout my whole life.
The trick is to know when to let it drive me, and when to hit the brakes.