I don’t know if there’s such a thing as friendly competition. Our favorite athletes might be friends with each other, but during the game, they tend to do whatever they can to win. No person is going to concede to the other, even if they shake hands at the end. I’ve never seen a competition get less competitive. In basketball, there seems to be an unspoken rule that if the opponent player is on the ground, don’t help them up. I have, however, seen it get more toxic. I’ve seen players try to intentionally try to injure their opponent. There’s something about competition that brings the worst out in people. It’s not just athletes either.
Competition occurs when we measure our self-worth by comparing ourselves to others. I soon as we see ourselves in a hierarchy and find ourselves wanting to be “the best” we are in competition. As soon as we believe that we are better than our coworkers, then we are in competition with our coworkers. It doesn’t matter if you are stopped at a red light with another person, and the other person doesn’t know you’re racing.
I believe it was Theodore Roosevelt who said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” It is also the thief of peace too. Not to say that peace and joy are two different things. When we believe that we are better than another person, we open up ourselves to pride instead of peace. If we think that we are inferior to someone else, that brings on discouragement. This comes into play when we compare ourselves based on scarce, meaningless qualities like beauty, popularity, riches, and experience. I would compare myself to people who seem to be more bubbly than me. They made making friends very easy while I am more reserved and I take a bit to open up. Making this comparison didn’t make me feel any better.
Comparison begets competition and competition begets conflict. Nothing good really comes out of someone we see as a rival. How much peace do you think you will receive when you see another person as a threat? How often will you agree with such a person? My guess is not very often. Not only do we think we’re better than the other person, but we are now also never wrong. This means conflict is bound to happen in the form of an argument, disagreement, or fight.
We like to think that we have a rivalry against another person because we are better than them, but the truth is, we are really insecure. We don’t really think we’re better than the other person, we are actually envious of them. If we weren’t we wouldn’t care much about the other person. I worked at a company that was infatuated with the competition. We would look up stats about the competition and then measure ourselves against them. We’d treat ourselves like the superior company even when the reality was that our statistics paled in comparison. We were envious of what the other companies were doing and even tried to replicate it without ever knowing its true success.
Instead of being envious of others, we could learn to be more accepting of our limitations. There’s no reason for us to have to compete with anyone if we learn how to be more modest. There’s nothing wrong with someone being smarter, more talented, or better looking than us. It’s all relative. When we love ourselves, we start to see that everyone is equally perfect beyond the illusions we judge ourselves. Instead of being envious, we could instead learn or draw inspiration from the people we admire. In this way, there is no competition, just admiration.