Throwback Thursday: Why I Hate Being Competitive

I feel like these TBT posts should have a jingle. ‘It’s Throwback Thursday, ba-da da da-daaaaaaaaa!’ It would add appropriate levels of pizazz. Don’t you think?

This week’s post was originally written on 21st June 2013; a couple of weeks after last week’s TBT post on mental illness. I must have been in a pretty bad head space around then, because this post sounds just as bitter and jaded.

Reading this post again now, it strikes me how people can change. I remember the almost blind competitiveness I talk about in this post. I felt it all during high school and university; this constant desire to be the best, and the accompanying misery that occurred when I always, inevitably, found someone who was better than me. It was a sad sort of existence, because I was never satisfied.

I definitely would not say that I am no longer competitive. I probably will always be secretly glad when I do better than somebody else, and secretly upset when somebody else does better than me. But I don’t think I will ever be as glad, or as upset, as I was back then. There are also now moments where I do a good job, maybe even a great job, in a test or on a project or whatever else, and I can say ‘great job Gillian’ and carry on with my day without agonising over whether I have done better than everybody else. There is no way I would have been able to do that four years ago.

Maybe I’m mellowing. Or maybe I’ve reached a point where I see how similar and how different I am to other people, and with that I can appreciate that we all have different abilities that make us us, so being better or worse in one skill than somebody else is not as important as it felt before.

Who knows? Either way, here is the original post. Enjoy. 🙂

All I can say is, I wish the competitions I entered looked as adorable.

The other day, my workmate and I were discussing how we and our other workmates are as salespeople. I mentioned competitiveness and she said that I was very competitive. I told her that she was too, and she said that yes, she was, and that she liked that about herself. I shook my head at her and said something like “That’s not what I feel. I hate that I’m competitive.” Indeed, when I was interviewed for this job and asked if I was competitive, I said “yes” without really thinking, then felt very embarrassed and tried to explain myself, only to have my soon-to-be area manager say “I don’t think being competitive is a bad thing at all.”

Oh, but it is. At least, it is when you are as competitive as I am. I would even in some ways go so far as to say that it is debilitating.

Let me give you an example. I got a 1st Class degree, right? 1st Class degrees are not the easiest things in the world to get, and my Japanese was dying so completely by the end of my degree that my pretty freaking fabulous Linguistics results were only just able to scrape me through. But the point is, it’s a 1st degree. You can’t really do better than that, can you?

Except of course, there are the people who get special prizes. The people who get the highest overall scores in certain subjects. The extraordinary people, in other words. These people announce their achievements on Facebook, presumably beaming with pride and joy and all of these other fabulous emotions (as they damn well should do), and people Like their posts and applaud them and it’s all fabulous. And I am trying to applaud with them. On the inside, however, all I’m thinking is “Well, they beat me. I lost this competition.” If instead somebody does not do quite as well, or gets a mark that is lower than mine, all I’m thinking is “hurrah! I won! I beat them!” And that is how I always, without fail, feel. Because I am just that freaking competitive.

I spend a lot of time trying to be a good person. I don’t always succeed, of course, because I’m shy and cowardly and always nervous about approaching people or speaking out for people, even if the ultimate goal is to help them. I also make mistakes, or try to do the right thing and just end up making everybody miserable, and I seem to make these mistakes far more frequently than most people, who are somewhat less absent-minded than me. But the point is, I try. And when somebody achieves something incredible, or is proud about something, or just does something fabulous, I do what I can to appear as though I am completely happy for them, and not thinking about myself at all. I smile, I cheer, I hug them, I ask to see their achievement (except maybe if the achievement in question is their finally being able to declare themselves ‘rash-free’), I do all of that stuff I am supposed to do. But inside, all I feel is anger, bitter jealousy, and sadness. Because that person has achieved that amazing thing for themselves, and I have not. And I am a failure because I have not. And I can only ever be genuinely happy for a person’s achievements if those achievements amount to less than my own. Because that is just how competitive I am.

My feeling this way basically, in my opinion, makes me the worst kind of friend it is possible to be. All of this anger and bitterness means that I can never be happy about my own achievements, or look at them and think “you know what? that’s enough. you’ve done good.” I see other people like me, frantically checking essays, calculating past marks and averages, and trying to work out if they are better than everybody else, and I feel sad. Then I see people who get essays back, say “I didn’t fail. Epic,” chuck the essay in their bag and carry on with their lives. They can proudly look at their achievements and say that, yes, they did well and that they’re happy, and then be genuinely happy for the people who are talented, put more work in and achieved the extraordinary as a result. They are good friends. And they are content. And I so badly wish I could be that sort of person that it hurts sometimes. Really, it does.

But that will never happen. Because I am too bloody competitive.

Posted by Gillian

Hello. My name is Gillian Brown. I'm a freelance writer living in the UK, with an Australian accent to offer as a starting point of conversation. As a writer, my main areas of interest are social activism, ethical consumption, linguistics, comedy, and marketing. My other interests include dancing, tabletop role-playing, crocheting and cooking.

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