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Why competition is usually just unhealthy competition

By Ananya Bhardwaj

It is human tendency to want to compare what’s in our hands to what we see with others. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, and quite often, we are subject to the implementation of this in real life from a very young age. It is often a running gag on Indian culture about how parents inevitably compare their Children to those of Sharma Uncle’s. Parenting is a truly difficult responsibility to live up to. However, parents are the first teachers in their child’s life and take on the role of a potter in moulding the impressionable clay.

Studies speak

A child grows up to be a person who is heavily influenced by how he/she is brought up, but more than actions, what creates a huge impact in their impressionable minds is what their parents think of them. A team of researchers from Brigham Young University found major flaws in the way siblings are treated by their parents. The results of their study, published in the Journal of Family Psychology, encourage parents to stop comparing siblings to one another before it causes a lifetime of harm.

The study’s lead author Alexander Jensen, a professor at Brigham Young University, stated in a press release that parents’ belief regarding their children and not just their actual style of upbringing influences what sort of a person their child will become in the future. “It’s hard for parents to not notice or think about differences between their children. It’s only natural. But to help all children succeed, parents should focus on recognizing the strengths of each of their children and be careful about vocally making comparisons in front of them.”

Until the stage that the siblings are grown up, the ones perceived as smarter may have begun to fulfil their observer role. “Parents tend to view older siblings as more capable, but on average older siblings are not doing better in school than their younger siblings,” Jensen said. As a parent, it is natural to want to know where their children rank compared to others. In this world of ranks and percentages where children are no longer individuals but growing to become statistics on a sheet, this is an unfortunate reality. But to constantly question them about how much better others perform will do nothing but settle the basis for a crippling inferiority complex.

Healthy competition versus unhealthy competition

However, not all comparisons need to be executed in a toxic manner. This comparison can fuel healthy competition as children: seeing their classmate being given a medal may spur them into working harder for it. When benchmarks are set for children instead of drawing comparisons, it boosts their morale and instils a sense of purpose. Children look up to their parents for support and validation, and even the bare minimum counts.

When a child feels close to his/her parent, it motivates them to come forth and share personal troubles. It is important that parents learn to acknowledge these steps and live up to the trust placed in them by their children. When a child feels like they lack something when one of their classmates wins an accolade that they wanted, parents should encourage them to cope with their weaknesses. It is a vital moment to identify the lacunae and motivate the child to work on their flaws to better themselves for when opportunities next present themselves.

As adults, this manifestation takes over our fundamental operations. One may stop from taking on newer experiences simply because somebody else may be excelling at it, even though after years of practice. Constant comparison and scrutiny forces us to focus on our flaws and not appreciate our strengths. We sideline our talents and put ourselves under a lot of self-induced stress, causing us to fret more and spiral further down into a pit of self-doubt and disapproval.

It is necessary to realise that just because somebody else is talented at doing something does not mean that we have to compete with them and match them step-to-step. Every individual is unique in handling things. Just like two people cannot react to the same situation in an identical fashion, it is not fair to pit oneself against someone else and feel smaller because of not having accomplished something the way one had perceived.

Hard work versus a stroke of luck

It is imperative that one learns how to differentiate between comparing oneself to others and setting goals for themselves. It is unreasonable to compare yourself to someone at something they may naturally be gifted at, which could take several months or years for you to master. In order to learn this art of differentiation so as to not discourage oneself, it is necessary that one learns to be comfortable in their own skin. It is a healthy practice to own your flaws and accept your shortcomings while celebrating your strengths and achievements. Once we are fully aware of our lacunae, we can take inspiration from others and work towards achieving better results instead of harbouring bitterness toward someone who has achieved a lot.

Comparisons are supposed to boost healthy competition and inspire one another to perform better. The minute that they turn toxic into nature is when we should take a step back because the comparison takes a personal turn and can damage our self-esteem and motivation can go for a toss.

As we grow up, it is important to be able to apply this principle on a daily basis. In a professional atmosphere, jealousy and ugly competitiveness do more damage than good. It is important to learn to reign our emotional thoughts about being passed over for a promotion, for example. Instead of criticising the person promoted over us, we should sit and reflect upon what we lacked for being chosen for the same position. This will lead to not just better results but also a dignified and graceful image of us even if we did not receive a promotion.

Being the best version of yourself

Comparing oneself to another person should not have to be a list of solely our flaws or their positives. It should be a list of virtues that they possess that one wishes to acquire. Positive reinforcement is much more effective than its negative counterpart because it encourages one to focus on the areas that need work. Despite the arduous nature of the task, being aware of one’s strengths provides inner confidence and morale in the process of working toward achieving the said goal.

Thus, it is necessary that we put our best foot forward in providing meaningful inspiration to ourselves and those around us. Putting yourself down is not a way to soar to your maximum potential. We must be the wind beneath our wings and resolve to make positive changes in our mindsets.

Featured Image Source: illusionwaltz on / CC BY-NC

This post first appeared on The Indian Economist | For The Curious Mind, please read the originial post: here

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Why competition is usually just unhealthy competition


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