The Need to Compete: Part 1

Baseball game
Sports fulfills the need to compete.

Competition and The Need to Compete.

I doubt there’s a country or a culture anywhere on the planet where the people doesn’t engage in some form of competition. And I can’t possibly think of an activity that hasn’t been turned into a competition*. With TV and the need to compete going hand in hand, some competitive artistic activities have become household words Dancing with the Stars & America’s Next Greatest Chef for example. It puzzles me what internal force is in place causing this very profound albeit important need to compete.

Allow me to ask some important questions about competing:

  • Why do we feel the need to compete?
  • When we win, do we feel “better” than our competitor?
  • When we win, do we feel “better” about ourselves?
  • While we’re competing, how do we feel about our competitor?
  • When we win, is our competitor now a loser?
  • How long does the winning feeling last?
  • How deep does the winning feeling go?
  • How badly do we feel when we don’t win? Do we feel like a “loser”?
  • Do we need to win to feel important and valuable?
  • When we were growing up, who was it that made us feel like we were a loser if we didn’t win? … not important? … worthless (worth less? less valuable less than whom?)
  • When that person was growing up, who was it that made them feel like a loser if they didn’t win?

The answers to all of these questions are vastly different for each and everyone of us. I encourage each reader to sit, clear their mind, and think about any particular question that resonates deeply. Does any question make you sad? Why?

My story about competition …

Growing up and later in life, my goal was to win the ultimate competition: the Olympics. I worked and trained very hard for many years to achieve my goal. And I got close. But I didn’t quite achieve my goal. After decades of heartache, frustration, financial and relationship loss (divorce), and of course physical injury (which I carry to this day), I stopped and asked myself why, why, why? I came up with my own answers.

Do I regret being a sports competitor? No I don’t. It did indeed shape much of my life. Would I change anything knowing what I know now? Indeed I would. I did major and permanent damage to my body. I have pain most days that I manage with medication. Back in the day, we (the competitors and coaches) weren’t aware of the damage we were doing. We thought we were young and indestructible. We didn’t know that some body parts would not repair to what they were.

However I learned valuable lessons … some of which were extremely difficult ones. I connected with many wonderful people. My competition shaped my value system in a good number of ways. However, looking back, the fact that I did not achieve my competitive goals seems unimportant now. The experiences were what counted.

But there’s another side to the NEED to COMPETE …

… and it might not be in our best interest:

I’ll address this in a future blog. To be continued in part 2 …

*Some of my favorite competitions are: pumpkin chunkin’, gurning1 (see below), string eating, shoelace tying, the Sauna World Championships2, competitive sheep counting, and of course the world famous eating competitions.

Gurning competition
“Gurning” or making a horrendous face is an annual British competition dating back to the 1200’s. I certainly don’t get it.


Dancing with the Stars
Dancing with the Stars


Rope Jumping / Skipping competition


Pie Eating
Pie Eating competition!




2 A competitor actually died during this competition!

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