Is Competition Good for Us?

CompetitionTears streamed down her face. It is quite hard to swallow defeat after working so hard, she thought. Numbly staring at the crowd around the victor she felt a deep sense of shame and remorse, not to mention guilt at having let a nation of a billion down. Treat victory and defeat the same she had been told, let each defeat be another step towards achieving success. But what use was that now, after failing to have emerged victorious for the third time in two days? Winning an Olympic medal seemed so impossible and unattainable that she had already lost sight of her goal; her carefully nurtured dream since childhood and with these thoughts in mind and the tears almost blinding her she left the field, disillusioned and broken.

It is indeed amazing what setbacks can do to an individual, how ones’ dream seems hopeless after losing in a competition. How, no matter how hard one tries, getting discouraged is human nature. But not allowing defeat to overwhelm you showcases the actual temperament of an individual.

It is in fact bizarre how competition has become a basis for labeling a person as successful in the present day world. But let us ask ourselves does competition serve any purpose? Can’t the human race survive without competition?

From their very entry into the world, children are subjected to the glories and terrors of victory and defeat. The very beginning of formal education in a child’s life is fighting for a place in the school. And all through student life this journey of bettering your fellow mates continues. Pushing a child too hard, to make him excel promotes unhealthy rivalry. But is it worth it at all? Isn’t the child’s mental and emotional character and feelings of greater importance?

We have sought to divide ourselves into nations, tribes and religious sects. And now that each individual has a distinct identity we have tried to be superior to fellow beings. Whatever may be the means, have humans ever fallen short of competing?

Nevertheless measuring your success in comparison with others is alas, the only way we can ever choose to evolve. The development of an individual to a large extent depends on one’s capacity to grasp things and situations quickly, to be able to distinguish between right and wrong at a young age, so that a foundation is laid to become a worthy member of the global family. It is how humans have created their existence on earth. It is the way we have chosen to live.

No matter how good we think we may be, the true strength of our character shines through in the numerous challenges thrown at us. The real essence of our being is realized by how well we are able to cope with each situation in contrast to others. The knowledge that millions across the face of the earth are better than us gives us the invaluable tool to stay firmly on the ground. The hunger for success that competition induces within each one of us is indeed so immense that we astonish ourselves.

People are blessed with the capacity to achieve their dreams. It is how we go about realizing our dreams that counts. Entering into competition can mean different things to different people. For some it may be just doing better than your previous best, or it could be with sole purpose of coming first or it could just be maintaining your current level of expertise. Whatever may be the reason, competition is necessary if one has to survive in today’s money, body shape and celebrity driven society.

For most of us competition adds a touch of excitement in our usual monotonous lives. It lifts us from our boredom. But slowly for some people competition becomes an obsession. Such mania can make us swollen headed after each victory and devastate us after each defeat. Even hobbies begin losing their fun. It makes us try too hard.

Ironically, children are more prone to comparing themselves with their peers or more so with celebrities and stars. Somewhere down the line, children, just because they are not as thin and beautiful as models or as good and talented as professional athletes, deem themselves as complete failures. If we allow our present feelings of inadequacy to control our future we actually devalue ourselves as unique and precious human beings. It is essential to realize that what we want is purely for ourselves and not run our lives on the hopes of any one else. It is not in our means to do everything that the world offers us, but it is solely in our hands to excel in the field where we chose to do so.

True, antagonism among nations is a dangerous thing. All the wars that have been fought have been a result of gross rivalry and mutual hostility. Each nation has sought to dominate, to dictate, to outshine every other country and assert its superiority. But amidst all the devastation and destruction is the undeniable fact that man has constantly wanted to improve. Never has anyone has anyone settled for mediocrity, been content with average performance, pleased at having accomplished the task without exercising his or her truest potential. This is, the real character of mankind which has brought us this far.

Uttara Balakrishnan