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I am competitive, and I wear it like a badge.

The recent narratives of glorifying non-competitiveness, making competitiveness seem like a sin, prompted this post.

Being competitive with our own species is the rule of evolution because only those who compete get the best resources. To be human is to compete as much as it is human to rely on social engagements. On the surface of it, todays urban society offers a place for everyone. However, our genetic makeup, the process of evolution, and our socialisation process dictate how much we will compete and for what. Yet, there is a section of people who don't feel the need to compete, not for survival at least. 

Competition leads to pain – the dejection of loss, the frustration when you cannot meet your own expectations and the loss of friends who feel left out. But it is also a source of immense joy –  the thrill of winning, of outdoing oneself and others, of a prize and the recognition that follows.

It is a myth to believe that the force that makes us compete with ourselves to better ourselves is starkly different from the force that makes us compete with others to win. Both energies have a common thread, and we will lose both if we are not competitive.

Social motivation remains one of the most important driving forces of our behaviour – probably as intense as our need to achieve or our need for power. It has been defined as a drive for a particular goal based on a social influence (Hogg and Abrams, 1990). Recent research has shown that the presence of a competitor can increase physical effort over both short (Le Bouc and Pessiglione, 2013) and long durations (Kilduff, 2014). Competitiveness has also been shown to increase physical motivation, such as motivation to persist (Frederick-Recascino and Schuster-Smith, 2003).

There may also be individual differences in the magnitude and direction of competition's performance effects. Grant and Dweck's 2003 research has shown that competitiveness increases performance on ostensibly difficult tasks. Yerkes and Dodson's (1908) study suggested that competition may improve performance in situations requiring a low attention load but not in learning environments requiring a high attentional load.

Just like too much of everything is bad, too much competition is also destructive – because it limits our ability to think of improvement beyond just "beating someone else". In a sense, a growth mindset and competitiveness are allies, not enemies. When we bash competitiveness, let us bash its negative impact when it is overused and blinding. But let us also get the message of its unbeatable benefits to success out there.


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