Competitiveness – what’s your stance?

I’ve been thinking about competitiveness.

I wonder when it is helpful and when it is harmful.  What are the side effects, benefits, drawbacks?

Winning a race, earning the highest mark on an exam, getting a job offer, gaining recognition for excellence – all these laurels come to those who can compete, with the grit, stamina, and inner strength to finish first or be the last one standing.   Good qualities, right?

Sometimes less overt, but  nonetheless ever-present, an undercurrent of competitiveness seeps into parenting, writing, body shapes and images, career choices, cars, houses, neighborhoods, schools.

Why this urge to measure and compare?   What does it serve?  What does it make possible?  What does it prevent?

How does competitiveness shape us?  What does it make us willing to risk?  What does it make us unwilling to dare?

As a fan of Brené Brown, I wonder about the relationship between competitiveness and vulnerability.

Readers and writers, what are your views on this?  I would so appreciate hearing other perspectives on this shadow topic.  Leave a comment or a link to your own thoughts – perhaps we can start a conversation.

With open ears,



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4 Responses to Competitiveness – what’s your stance?

  1. banjoboy71 says:

    Have you given much thought to the subject of competitiveness among musicians? The interesting aspect of this type of competitive interplay is that musicians most often are required to cooperate in order to compete. Of course there are solo artists and celebrity musicians but the vast majority must learn how to cooperate in order to ‘shine’.


  2. Melissa says:

    I think you’ve touched on one of the most interesting and complex aspects of competitiveness that I can think of. It seems the music world can be quite cutthroat – especially as people aspire to professional levels – but, as you point out, really good music has an element of cooperation and communication that I sometimes think surpasses the spoken word. Sometimes I think there are talents that are simply unstoppable, you can’t keep them from shining, regardless of the noise backstage. And sometimes, I think incredibly talented people with less of a stomach for the ‘game’ take themselves out of the equation. I don’t know. I’m still thinking – thanks for your thoughts.


  3. Rachel Turiel says:

    Interesting topic. My daughter and I are naturally competitive, my son and husband aren’t. What I can tell you is that the brains of the men in the family are much more peaceful places. They do what they are interested in based on their own internal drive and don’t seem to measure themselves against others. Daughter and I do what we’re interested in based on our own internal drive, but then, damn, we do compare ourselves. It seems competition works best when you’re always ahead, which isn’t sustainable. Competition seems like a distraction from what your real work may be.


    • Melissa says:

      Interesting gender divide on this topic in your comment. Sometimes,competition is overt and the rules and criteria are clear: who scored the most goals, who ran the fastest, who won the chess game. But other times, competition takes on an insidious flavor (Is there such a thing as an insidious flavor?) and two unlike things are being covertly compared: parenting styles, economic choices, personal accomplishments. Here it has that bitter flavor of jealousy and sidelong glances, that often have misunderstanding (or partial understanding) at the root. And in very very broad strokes, something I think these two kinds of competition can fall along a gender divide. Boys being more straightforward, girls being more coy. Still thinking, though. Thanks for your comment!


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