Competition, Comparison and Psychology.

Competition is necessary to determine the best-suited candidate for any task. It’s not limited to humans only. It has always been an integral part of nature. Darwin’s theory of natural selection roughly meant that the species which adapts the best to the conditions survive while others perish. That is a competition for survival, plain and simple. There is no ill-will between the competing species. 

But what happens when humans compete amongst each other? More precisely, what happens when certain emotions are thrown in the mix?? 

We always have to compete for a particular position because that’s the only way we can determine if an individual is better equipped than their peers at that task. It is an excellent motivator for self-improvement, for pushing our abilities and sharpening our skills. 

How about comparison? Not for any logical reason. Comparison between people is rarely logical or sound. But, comparison just out of spite. The maddening desire to show someone that you’re better than them. This excessive competitiveness is associated with a person’s need for validation, their sense of insecurity, the desire to feel superior. This compulsive urge to make others feel small destroys the spirit of competition. 

With the arrival of social media, where people tend to display their best self, the comparison has become more common and misplaced. Everyone tries to see where they stand as compared to others. 

The psychology of comparison arises mainly due to a masochistic need to satiate one’s ego or due to excessive self-loathing. It creates a feeling of baseless superiority or inferiority.

So now, people are competing for things as small as marks in a class test. It doesn’t matter if they got to learn any new concept out of it. Their only concern is to feel good about themselves or to make others feel bad, the consequences of which is explained beautifully in the following quote:

Comparison is a thug that robs your joy. But it’s even more than that – Comparison makes you a thug who beats down somebody – or your soul.

Ann Voskamp

Admittedly, no one likes to lose, but if a loss brings you resolve and focus on doing better, on trying again, I think it’s vital to experience some of those losses as they come. Because at the end of the day, competition, let me rephrase that, a healthy competition means getting better than we were. And comparison, well, that is not advised because we keep on hearing no two people are alike. So, it won’t be reasonable to compare two individuals with the same benchmarks. However, we can compare ourselves against our idols or the people we look up to, not for competition or any negative emotions but inspiration. Competition, if it does not arise from the desire of getting better, a willingness to aim for excellence, then it’s just plain jealousy or, for lack of a better word, “narcissism.”

So, healthy competition is for self-improvement, while the comparison should be for inspiration, if at all. Life is a journey that differs from person to person, based on their choices, motivations, fears, values, and, most importantly, their capability.

In the end, I would like to leave you with a quote by the great mathematician and astrologer Nicolaus Copernicus on how degrading comparison can be:

The massive bulk of the earth does indeed shrink to insignificance in comparison with the size of the heavens.

But Earth is not insignificant. It is the only planet we know of that supports life. Remember this analogy whenever you feel the urge to compare yourself.

Content Credits – Prateek Sinha

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