Competition will inevitably thrive between actors auditioning for the same lead role in the school play, baseball players turning as many double plays as they can to make the Varsity team and yearbook students trying to prove their commitment to their publication with the hopes of becoming an editor. Feeling pressure to succeed, especially at a school like ours that puts such a large emphasis on excellence in all domains, comes from multiple different places and motivates students to compete with each other to be the best.
Striving to be number one can often require intense competition to beat out peers. While competitiveness can take toxic forms that harm friendships and lead to an unabated obsession with perfection, a healthy dosage can motivate students to work harder to achieve their goals. For example, an award-winning artist who stays at the studio an hour longer to work on her painting might be encouraging other painters in her class to do the same without realizing it. Similarly, an athlete that decides to try lifting a heavier weight demonstrates a certain drive and determination that his teammates are more likely to adopt in an effort to be better, which makes the entire team stronger.
Even though our peers can push us to be better, it is vital not to forget the importance of self-motivation. Hard work with the goal of improvement should be something that is truly wanted and not just something that feels mandatory because of external pressure from coaches or family members. While competition among peers can propel students to build their skills up to impressive heights, self-motivation should be thought of as a prerequisite. If a student doesn’t feel an instinctual desire to pursue excellence in a certain field, no matter how hard their peers are working, drive to improve in the activity will not magically appear. Students have to want to succeed in order for healthy competition to give them the extra push toward greatness.
However, when competition mutates into comparison, it can become extremely harmful. It is an inevitability that there will always be someone better at something, and to a certain extent, measuring personal success by using others as a baseline is human nature.
But, someone who fixates on comparing their flaws to others’ perceived perfection is putting themselves in a position that could make it difficult for them to improve at their own pace and be proud of their progress. Finding things to be proud of and understanding that everyone is different is a necessary aspect of positive self-growth.
Competition doesn’t just exist in a school environment– it is an inevitable part of society at large. Getting a promotion or succeeding in the workplace is certainly an example of this; however, there are more instances of competitiveness that are equally if not more prevalent in our day to day lives. Having a strong urge to beat your friends when playing games like charades or Scrabble, taking a spot on the leaderboard at a spin class or even investing hours researching college basketball to try to make a perfect March Madness bracket are just a few ways that competition remains an integral aspect of life.
Cultivating healthy practices as early as possible, like finding the right amount of competition to encourage motivation while avoiding comparison, is crucial to propel people to new heights when it comes to achievement. Playing a part in creating a place that both facilitates fine-tuning skill and welcomes learning can be the basis for a little bit of friendly competition among peers, ultimately fostering an environment for people to grow into their best selves.of friendly competition among peers, ultimately fostering an environment for people to grow into their best selves.