I never thought of myself as a competitive person because I saw how much more competitive many others were than me. I never cared to win much at sports or other “see who is best” events. Maybe it was because the effects of losing didn’t last long or I’d just rather not dive to the ground just to keep a ball in the air. Regardless, I did engaged in my own competitions from time to time, but they weren’t always so sportly structured.
Often my rivals were simply my friends in school. We were all trying our best to get good grades and we were all in the same boat when it came to intelligence, so it was often a close call. I only had to win by a few inches, not cram for a whole mile.
Other rivals were family members of a similar age vying for attention or adoration from the adults, which we were never actually starved for.
These competitions were constant throughout childhood. As I got older and became aware of these behaviors, I realized that the scars I was accumulating and causing were not longer a result of healthy competition. It was down right mean.
Though all of this I always thought of myself as a nice person. I was at heart a people pleaser to the point where I put other people’s wants above my own. But I wasn’t fully a nice person. I inflicted social pain on others when they didn’t even know there was a competition. I felt triumphant when I finally felt better than a specific person.
Then I looked back and realized that they were just being themselves, reacting to the world, looking for a friend. Here I was jealous of their natural advantages, needing to prove myself when my friend just stood there defeated by my behavior.
Its been over 10 years since I had this realization. I’ve since made new friends who were so beyond my own situation in life that I felt no need to compete. We are simply not comparable because we play life in completely different arenas with completely different rules. We can simply talk about life and try to understand each other without one-upping.
I still encounter my old rivals, often with compassion and guilt over having “beat” them when they were already too far down to fight. Others, I just avoid, having never settled the score.