Cooperation is the glue that keeps society together, but a certain amount of healthy competition is also good, even necessary. The problems arise when it becomes cut-throat competition, or when we attach self-worth to it.
Competition can become an obsession. Especially when certain accolades are attached to it. And especially when it’s culturally enforced through the media, in schools, in the workplace, and at home. When your value is determined by how you rank in a particular category relative to other people it won’t be good for your self-esteem.
Living as though you have something to prove, that you matter, is a game that can’t be won. Partly because the game will never end and partly because it’s a false premise.
Competition is something that should happen more passively. For example: two businesses trying to serve the same client base shouldn’t be obsessed with destroying each other. The focus should be on being of better service to clients, and as a natural result one will likely do better than the other.
That’s the way it often is, but in many cases there’s a lot of cheating involved. Sabotaging your “opponent” or manipulating potential clients isn’t a decent way to behave.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with being competitive. With wanting to be your best. With wanting to excel ahead of others in a particular domain. Obsession is the problem. Obsession with only mattering if you’re better or have more than someone else. Obsession with survival at the cost of others and a sense of self-worth through tribal one-upmanship.
Such competitiveness lacks mindfulness. Mindfulness keeps us grounded, focused on what’s most important, and causes us to recognize the ego-traps of the world. When we’re mindful we don’t get caught up in separating ourselves. We’re not focused on trying to distinguish ourselves from other people. Instead, we see interconnectedness.