Unhealthy Competition–What is My Problem?


A woman I wanted to befriend rejected me. I found out that she moved to a big apartment, and I decided that I wanted to move too. Clearly, I do not deal well with rejection. See my post “Making Friends:  Understanding Rejection.”

I started looking at listings for bigger apartments. I showed my husband floor plans. I called a broker to set up an appointment to see the new apartments. I thought about how I was going to get my apartment ready to show for sale.

The crazy thing is that I love my apartment. I love it so much that as a claustrophobic person, I found a way to deal with the small elevator in my building. See my post “Adapting to Phobias:  A Claustrophobic Gets Stuck in an Elevator.” My husband and I both love our apartment. Before I found out that this woman had moved, we were talking about whether we should look for more space in the city now that we have a second child. We decided together that it was not worth the extra cost to move to a bigger apartment, which would come with a larger mortgage and higher maintenance. We decided that we preferred a lower overhead to a larger apartment.

I realized that I was the living, breathing definition of unhealthy competition. I started to think about the difference between healthy and unhealthy competition.

What is unhealthy competition? What is healthy competition?

Unhealthy competition happens when you compete with others for the wrong reasons. In my case, I was competing because I felt rejected. I felt bad that this woman did not want to be my friend, and I wanted a bigger apartment to show her that I was worthy of her friendship. One way to tell if you are engaging in unhealthy competition is to ask yourself if your motivation is consistent with your authentic self. In my case, I was acting contrary to my authentic self because my authentic self did not want to move. My interest in moving was stirred up by rejection, not by authentic feelings of wanting more space.

Healthy competition means competing with others in pursuit of a goal that is true to you. With healthy competition, your motivation has nothing to do with defeating a specific person or proving anything to anyone other than yourself. You have a goal that is yours and competing helps you to achieve your goal. I’ll use the sport of tennis as an example. When two players are in a match, they are competing, but the competition isn’t (or shouldn’t be) personal. The two players use (or should be using) competition to improve their individual games because they love tennis. Healthy competition happens when individuals compete to improve themselves or their skills. Healthy competition is not personal.

The world is a highly competitive place. My advice is to stay true to yourself and make sure you are competing for the right reasons.