The Gustavian Weekly

Unhealthy competition | The Gustavian Weekly

By Kevin Matuseski Staff Columnist | November 21, 2008 | Opinion

Remember when you would get nervous before an important test or a big game, and your parents would say, “Just do your best, honey, and everything will be OK”? Either you took them seriously and calmed yourself a bit, or you sneered at them and thought, “They don’t realize how important this is to me.”

Personally, I thought it was soothing to hear my parents reassure me, but it has been getting harder to “just do my best” in this dog-eat-dog world. I worry too much about whether or not my best is better than the guy next to me. Competition is starting to rule our lives. If we are better at our jobs than our coworkers are, we get paid more; if we are better than our teammates, we get more playing time; and if we are better at wooing the girls, well, we get the girls.

There is nothing wrong with a little healthy competition, right? Sure, but we spend too much of our lives worrying about whether or not we are going to win. Life has become too much of a contest. The problem? It divides us. We tend to think, “You are my opponent, and I need to beat you.”

When people write hate speech on cars, they are trying to show they are better than whomever they are bashing. Guess what: nobody is “better” than anyone else. It is the desperate need to be superior to another that leads to desperate acts. Why do we feel the need to compare ourselves to others? In a lot of cases, it causes more harm than good. It is time to start playing for the love of the game, and not for the love of winning. Live your own life, and stop worrying about how your neighbors are living theirs.

Comparing ourselves to others can really stress us out. I am sure everybody has looked at a class grade sheet to check their grades and, in the meantime, peeked at a few classmates’ grades. Does that change your grade? I think not, but it is definitely going to stress you out if you are not near the top of the class.

Gustavus students are overachievers. Yeah, I said it. We are all goody-goodies. But, hey, that’s not a bad thing. The problem arises when Timmy starts getting discouraged because Travis is in more clubs and organizations than he is. We are all different people, so we should all have different definitions of achieving.

Theodore Roosevelt once said, “I care not what others think of what I do, but I care very much about what I think of what I do! That is character!” Do not fuss about whether or not your achievements match your peers’.

The election is a good example of healthy competition, and I think both presidential candidates taught us an important lesson about winning and losing. I would say the election turned out all right because, in the end, John McCain and Barack Obama no longer saw it as a competition, but as a campaign for one country.

For instance, in his concession speech, McCain said, “I urge all Americans who supported me, to join me in not just congratulating him, but offering our next president our goodwill and earnest effort to come together.” Here he is not saying who is “better;” he is just saying what his party and his followers need to do next.

Barack Obama, on a similar note, said, “We have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of red states or blue states. We are, and always will be, the United States of America.”

I think the speeches after the election were the greatest moments of the whole campaign and election process. They showed how it was not about a competition between democrats and republicans. Yes, they have different beliefs, and they are always going to have different beliefs, but just because Obama “won” the election does not mean his beliefs are “better.” McCain does not need to worry about changing his beliefs so he can compete with Obama. They both had their own views, and they both did their best to plead their cases.

Therefore, we need to run our own life campaigns. Sometimes we play too dirty and try to tear down our opponents, but we can live much happier and more stress-free lives if we live them how we want to. Do your best, but do it for yourself. That way, there is no loser.