One of my recreational interests is doing sprint triathlons (swim-bike-run races). Last month someone asked me why I “got into” this sport, and my zero-hesitation answer was this: Because I’m competitive and needed an outlet.
To see the look on this person’s face, you might have thought I said: Because I come from another planet and we’re harvesting the discarded energy gel packets of human triathletes to fuel the mothership.
This response reminded me once again that to some people, “competitive” is a dirty word and as such, identifying yourself so isn’t a favorable attribute.
I disagree wholeheartedly.
To my mind, being competitive IS NOT:
- reflective of the successes or failures of others
- a suggestion that teamwork or the contribution of others holds no value
- exclusive of collaboration among like-minded competitors
- an indication that one is superior to others
- a means of seeking attention or needing praise
- “compensation” for some perceived shortcoming
- an implication that one is cold, ruthless, or arrogant
To me, at its best as a positive trait, being competitive IS:
- a desire to maximize the potential of one’s talents
- a recognition that few things in life come to us easily (i.e., with little effort)
- an opportunity to seek solutions where problems may arise
- a means of challenging one’s self in a goal-oriented fashion
- a belief that experiences build character
- the realization that we all have friends and we all have foes
- a way to find inspiration in ourselves and in others
And that’s why you’ll never hear me apologize for being competitive.
I believe there’s always a better version of myself to be had if I work harder, challenge myself more, and nurture worthwhile relationships. At the end of the day, the only one with whom I am truly competing is me.