I read a great post this week by the lovely Liz over at Living with Kids that really got me thinking. I won’t go into details….it’s well worth reading the original so go have a look here if you haven’t already done so.
I commented in my usual ‘fingers hit the keyboard, brain more or less engages, publish’ kind of way and then sat back and really thought about it. I wondered if my whole ‘anti-competitive’ stance on this particular debate was linked to the fact that really I felt that I had lost, or failed in some way. Was my negativity more associated with a personal failing than an honest opinion?
This lead me into a whole internal debate about the nature of competition, what constitutes ‘healthy’ competition and where does it mutate into the unhealthy?
I believe that humans are naturally competitive and that this is a healthy state. We compete with ourselves, calling it ambition or drive, constantly pushing ourselves to achieve our goals and better ourselves…or we don’t, we become ambivalent or defeatist, convincing ourselves that the fight is already lost, that’s there’s no point even trying….either way it comes down to a naturally competitive instinct and an individual’s way of interpreting it.
We compete with one another, from our earliest days. I listen to my children’s conversations with their friends: competition is ingrained into every sentence, and yet it’s all very good natured. I’ve tried to stop them in the past, before realising that there is no malice in what they say, they are merely making observations and comparisons, mentally measuring themselves and finding their way.
Our economy relies on competition; we can walk into any supermarket and choose from a simply boggling array of products. We NEED to have 20 different washing powders to choose from (obviously). We enjoy making comparisons between Heinz and Branston beans, and fiscally we depend on the revenue that is generated by the competing giants serving us this fare.
And it is in our day-to-day lives where competition is often fiercest. The competitive parents rutting at the school gate, the mother and toddler gauntlet run, the ballet recital, reading schemes, designer labels, first words, school reports, husband’s promotions, new cars, bigger house…and we compete on the negatives too: biggest mortgage, biggest debt, worst illness, most horrendous labour story, terrible MiL, awful FiL, most annoying parents, most infirm grandparents and so on.
We are never content with being the best at anything, our children also have to be the best, and our pets, and then we also have to have the worst luck, be the most in debt, have the most gory hospital stories to tell, coupled with the most annoying family members in history.
Where does it end?
Can we prevent it happening?
I had a lightbulb moment on the A11. I wasn’t fooling myself, I had just got a bit confused (all too easily done). It’s not about the competition per se. Although I do think that by denigrating the whole idea of competition we’ve begun to pretend that it doesn’t exist, turning it into the elephant in the corner. I’m all for embracing competition, giving it it’s rightful place but throwing out it’s PITA second cousins Self Righteousness and Judgementalism, especially when they come hand-in-hand with their half-sister Misplaced Piety.
Because these are the really harmful traits. To compete is healthy, it gives us a benchmark, highlights other opinions that we can factor into bettering ourselves, but to do this without accepting the strengths of your contender is to be self righteous: to believe yourself better without giving the matter due consideration. To judge a situation or a person under the same circumstances, to allow oneself to believe that they are inferior or undeserving of your respect is equally as unforgivable.
This is a particularly pertinent subject at the moment. The creation of the MADS2010 blog awards have worried a lot of us. Is it right to pit us against one another? Will it all get a bit gladiatorial?
In my moment of clarity I think not. The consensus so far has been to show an even greater level of appreciation of each other’s blogs than I’ve previously seen. In order to make my nominations I had to think hard about why the blogs I chose meant so much to me. I didn’t feel any sense of self righteousness or judgement, just a warm fuzzy feeling that I get to connect with such a talented bunch of people.
I hope that the MADS2010 turns out to be a healthy competition.
My own personal pledge is that in the future I will not pretend to be anti-competition, but neither will I accept or offer unfounded judgements on my own or anyone else’s opinions, families, lifestyles or work.
That’s All 🙂