Competition – Harmful or Helpful?

For some reason, stories involving competitions tend to have unrealistically glorious endings. The main character always seems to come out on top with replenished self-esteem and heaps of admiration. In actuality, competition is not that sublime, especially when you lose. Instead of finding yourself shining in the spotlight with skyrocketing confidence and flawless skills on display, your loss may invite feelings of discouragement or dejection, and moving on will seem difficult. Even if you win your competition, it will not be a picture-perfect, storybook scenario. With the race to place growing ever more potent, you might find your peers to be more envious than ecstatic about your achievement.

Now you may be questioning why one would willingly participate in something that could have such negative consequences. And it’s true, competitive endeavors have the potential to be harmful to ourselves and even our communities, but they can also be highly gratifying if handled correctly. What’s most important is that we use competition as a tool to push society forward, instead of bringing it down.

Although it may seem frightening, competing can have tons of positive outcomes. For one, and I’m sure you’ve all heard this, competition pushes us to work harder. It may sound cliche, but competing against others forces us to practice, prepare, and do our best, inevitably leading to improvement.

It also teaches us vital core values such as sportsmanship, humility, and discipline. Even when you win, most contests forbid any unsportsmanlike behavior. This trains us to be humble and respect others. Discipline is also a requisite role in modern competition. Whether it be a basketball game with a team of 20 or a solo chess championship, self-motivation and personal drive are the best methods to guarantee success.

Last but not least, competition is an extremely effective way to unite people. When I joined my school’s basketball team, I certainly did not expect to befriend so many people. Practicing, traveling, and playing together forged a unique bond between the team, even if just for a few months. I made tons of close connections through competing in sports and other pursuits. Overall, competitive activities have proven themselves to be progressive and generally beneficial. Competition has driven the evolution of humanity for centuries, and it sure is not stopping now!

Although competition has multiple benefits, some may say its cons outweigh the pros. There are plenty of downsides to competitive activities that tend to be left unspoken. Firstly, competition can be discouraging and demeaning. When someone loses a competitive endeavor, it can make them feel as though they are not talented enough to be doing it, damaging their confidence and discouraging them from pursuing the competition in the future.

On top of that, competing can harm collaboration skills in youth, as it forces young kids to work against each other. If the world focused solely on individualistic success, we would never advance as a species.

Finally, competitions can be very restrictive, as they enforce the idea that wealth, fame, and happiness are only achievable by winning awards and being the best, leading everyone down the same, homogenous path to “success”. If everyone’s ultimate goal followed the same trail, diversity, and consequently, progress, would diminish. All in all, competition isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, but that doesn’t mean it should be completely avoided. 

With all things considered, it’s clear that competition is a delicate, multi-faced concept, but I believe that when handled correctly, competition is a force for good, not evil. Competing can teach us core values, expand our social circle, and push us to try harder and improve ourselves. There’s a lot to learn in the realm of competitive activities, whether they’re academic or sports-based. Many discoveries, innovations, and generally remarkable achievements have been made through competition. Overall, competing is a great way to broaden your horizons and step out of your comfort zone, and I highly recommend taking the chance. You never know what you’ll find!

Of course, it’s easier said than done. Competitions can be stressful, and knowing how to handle them is essential. Always make sure you prepare for the event. Entering a competition without proper practice is pointless, as you won’t learn anything from it. It’s like taking a unit test before you retain the material. Putting too much importance on the outcome of the competition can also ruin the experience and the learning journey. Don’t take the results too seriously. Understand that it’s okay to lose as long as you got something out of the ordeal. Lastly, if you win, celebrate yourself, no matter how small the achievement may be. You accomplished something, and that’s worth being proud of. Just remember to practice sportsmanship and humility. With all that said, go out and face the competition. You may not be a main character with thick plot armor, but I promise it’ll be worth it.

Photo by GR Stocks on Unsplash

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