A little friendly competition to reach your goals or to squeeze out one last 400 meter is welcome but when does competition begin to become unhealthy? Competition is a foundational and essential component within the running world and it is viewed as a positive way to catalyze athletes and produce high levels of inspiration and athletic performance.
However, it is not just in the racing world where we find competition. Almost all human beings are naturally competitive and have an internal drive to gain an advantage over another in some form. So where does it end? When will we be satisfied? Using money as an example: as wealth is gained, a person's sense of happiness doesn't correlate–if everyone became richer, no one got happier. This is because in this case, people’s happiness stemmed from their relative amount of wealth when comparing oneself to others. The same can be said within an elite racing field or a recreational marathoner.
The difference between healthy and unhealthy competition really comes down to your frame of mind and attitude about your success and other people’s success. If your competitive nature is not kept in check you are likely to gain an unhealthy sense of competition which can leave you feeling disappointed, unfulfilled, and inadequate.
What is unhealthy competition?
Needing validation and attention. When competition is motivated by your desire to get attention and validation from others, this stems from a place of insecurity and low self-esteem. This weaker foundation negatively impacts your ability to perform and compete at the height of your true potential.
Putting down others. Competition can become even unhealthier when it becomes tearing other people down.
Winning at any cost. Unhealthy competition puts a huge emphasis on an outcome, rather than finding value the journey
Productivity level is lost if you are looking around the gym or the start line wishing you were more like someone else. If an athlete is confident and secure with themselves, they are not worried about what anyone else is doing.
What does healthy competition look like?
Unlocking your personal potential. Healthy competitors are far less concerned about how they stack up against the field, and are more interested in reaching new levels of personal potential.
Honoring mutually held values. If you think about sports and sports teams there is an unspoken unity drawing the individual players and teams together – a sense of shared values. Shared values like perseverance, grit, hard work, fairness, and integrity. Healthy competition emphasizes these values rather than the individual's benefit.
Enjoying the journey along with the outcome. Effective competitive environments recognize the value of the journey. When the focus is not primarily on the end goal, more attention is paid to the wisdom gained in the process of getting there.
When other people succeed, the best thing you can do is to take away elements of their work that inspire you and incorporate them into your own routine, while leaving out the things you don’t necessarily connect with. Then you engage in your own self-improvement. As a healthy competitor, focus on yourself and your progress without concerning yourself with others who have similar goals.