Even a friendly debate turns into a battle for me. My competitiveness is hurting those around me.

I’ve always been a competitive person.

From schoolyard games to academic achievements, I’ve always been driven to be the best. Sports, trivia nights, even casual board games with friends — I took everything as a personal challenge, a battle to be won. I used to think this was just part of my personality, a harmless trait that kept me motivated and ambitious.

But when I moved from my small hometown in Kansas to the bustling city of New York for work, I began to realize just how deeply rooted this competitiveness was. In the high stakes environment of Wall Street, where I worked as a financial analyst, my relentless drive seemed normal, even encouraged.

It was “survival of the fittest,” after all.

However, it was when I returned home for a holiday gathering that I noticed how much my competitiveness was affecting those around me. A simple family game of Monopoly turned into a heated debate.

It suddenly hit me: My need to win wasn’t just about achieving success in the workplace or in games. It had seeped into every aspect of my life and started affecting relationships with people who mattered most.

It wasn’t until a close friend pulled me aside and shared how my competitive streak made her feel inadequate and undermined that the gravity of the situation truly sank in. She explained how it felt like every conversation turned into a contest, every friendly debate into a battle.

This was an eye-opening revelation for me. I initially moved to New York to build a successful career and provide for those I loved back home. Yet here I was, unintentionally creating rifts and causing pain with my unyielding competitiveness.

Now, back in New York, I’ve started therapy and am learning to balance ambition with empathy, debating without dominating, and playing without the need to always win.

Here’s what it’s been like trying to change deeply ingrained habits and become more mindful about how my actions affect others.

Learning to listen and let go

Upon realizing how my competitiveness was impacting my relationships, I knew something had to change. It wasn’t going to be easy. To many, the drive to outdo others and come out on top is seen as a virtue, indicative of a strong work ethic and ambition.

But I started small. I began with listening. Instead of jumping in with my point of view or arguing, I made a conscious effort to really hear what others were saying, giving them the space to express their thoughts without interruption.

At work, I restrained myself from always having the last say in meetings or being the first to volunteer for tasks. I started sharing credit where it was due, acknowledging that success is often a collective endeavor.

With friends and family, it was more challenging. Conversations felt awkward as I held back my natural inclination to debate or prove myself right. Game nights were tough too. But I found joy in simply participating and enjoying the company of loved ones rather than focusing solely on winning.

I won’t lie; it’s been a tough journey, filled with moments of self-doubt and frustration. But it’s also been incredibly rewarding. The quality of my relationships has improved significantly and I’ve learned to appreciate the journey rather than just the destination.

The double-edged sword of competitiveness

For the longest time, I believed that being competitive was an unambiguously positive trait. After all, society often rewards those who strive to be the best, who outperform others, who relentlessly pursue their goals. It’s a view that’s widely held — that competitiveness is synonymous with success.

But my experience has shown me the other side of this coin. Competitiveness can blind you to the value of collaboration and shared success. It can make you argue for the sake of winning rather than for truth or understanding. It can turn friends into rivals and simple joys into battlefields.

This isn’t to say that competitiveness is inherently bad. It can fuel ambition, inspire innovation, and drive you to exceed your own expectations. But when it seeps into every aspect of your life, it can become toxic.

My journey has taught me that there’s a fine line between healthy competition and harmful obsession. Navigating this line is a delicate balance, but one that’s crucial for maintaining meaningful relationships and personal well-being.

Embracing balance and self-awareness

The key to managing my competitiveness was finding balance and fostering self-awareness. It’s not about completely eliminating competitiveness, but rather channeling it effectively.

First, I made a conscious effort to be aware of my competitive tendencies in various situations. I took note of how I reacted when faced with a potential ‘win or lose’ scenario and how that made others feel.

Next, I worked on developing empathy. I focused on understanding others’ perspectives, even if they were different from my own. This was challenging at first but proved crucial in curbing my instinct to always vie for the top spot.

Finally, I learned to celebrate others’ successes as much as my own. This shifted my perspective from seeing life as a zero-sum game to viewing it as a shared journey filled with collective achievements.

If you’re struggling with overwhelming competitiveness like I did, be patient with yourself. Change takes time and perseverance. With conscious effort and self-awareness, it’s possible to strike the right balance, where competitiveness fuels growth without sabotaging relationships.

Taking a step back for holistic self-growth

My journey with competitiveness has taught me more than just the importance of balance and empathy. It’s been a profound lesson in introspection and personal responsibility. Here’s what I’ve learned:

  • Responsibility: Even though my competitive streak was not necessarily my fault, I took responsibility for its impact on my relationships. This act of ownership empowered me in the face of adversity.
  • Self-thinking: I realized that my competitiveness was partly due to societal norms and conditioning. By identifying this, I started to live life on my own terms, rather than being driven by external expectations.
  • Reality check: Denying or sugar-coating my challenges did not help. Facing the reality of my situation, uncomfortable as it was, proved to be the first step towards change.
  • Self-development: I focused on practical growth methods, like therapy and daily self-improvement practices, instead of falling for hollow positivity platitudes.

Stepping outside the boundaries set by society can be a challenging yet crucial part of your personal evolution. Embrace the understanding that your path is distinct, and don’t hesitate to challenge widely accepted beliefs. It’s in these moments of self-discovery that you truly grow.

Picture of Ava Sinclair

Ava Sinclair

Ava Sinclair is a former competitive athlete who transitioned into the world of wellness and mindfulness. Her journey through the highs and lows of competitive sports has given her a unique perspective on resilience and mental toughness. Ava’s writing reflects her belief in the power of small, daily habits to create lasting change.

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