Competition Is Healthy, But Too Much Is Detrimental

The sheer number of young people today is causing you to compete more for coveted spots in private schools, sports teams, colleges, internships, and jobs. As a result, you might often feel daily pressure to beat out your peers, to be seen as the absolute greatest, and even to become superstars. Although a certain competitive edge can be motivating, for some people this attitude becomes extreme and unhealthy.

Look for signs that you may be overdoing competition. If you become distraught over mild setbacks or minor mistakes, or views your classmates and teammates as utter rivals, your competitiveness may be detrimental. Do you get unduly upset when you get a disappointing grade or your team loses? People who are overly competitive set ever-higher goals, are rarely satisfied with their accomplishments, and continuously push themselves to do more—and to be more. Yet they never feel satisfied with their accomplishments. It is as if they are on a treadmill, going faster and faster but getting nowhere.

If you suspect you are caught in this negative cycle, begin by discussing openly your concerns about your goals with your parents or with someone you can trust. Are they realistic?  You need to realize that you can never be tops in everything, that there will always be people who are smarter, more athletic, or more talented than you are.

You need to learn how to set your own standards, rather than comparing yourself to others. Make sure you have down time to relax, hang out with friends, and daydream. Unless you need extra help, signing up for additional classes or getting a tutor to give you “an edge” may only intensify your pressure. Be mindful of avoiding burn-out. Similarly, you need to focus on discovering which of activities and accomplishes make you feel good—and proud of yourself.