Personal Journeys with Gramma

Life adventures, inspiration and insight; shared in articles, advice, personal chats and pictures.

If I Win, You Lose: The Logic of Competition and Jealousy


Some things are limited.  As Americans, we’re already suffering the consequences created by our forebears who believed we couldn’t possibly pollute THAT MUCH water, land, air, agriculture, etc. Running out once seemed absolutely absurd.  Wars are fought over shortages; they’re all too real.  But the irony is that we act as though other nonphysical resources—such as health, prosperity, and happiness—are limited. What?

When someone achieves something we want, instead of celebrating for that person, we secretly slouch down into a mud puddle of jealousy.  For example, when I see Facebook posts about someone’s fabulous exotic vacation, celebration isn’t the first emotion I feel: “I want that!”  Conversely, when I was FINALLY able to change my lifestyle and grow healthier (under threat of death, I might add), people began conversations with me by telling me why they didn’t really want to do the same—as though I had scolded.  The same thing happened when I became an author.  I knew one woman who stopped writing when one of her friends was published—as though the success of one sucked up all the possibilities and talent, leaving every other aspiring writer gasping for air on barren sand like a beached fish.

Perhaps I’ve inadvertently stumbled onto the line of reasoning espoused by coaches who are narrow-minded and myopic:  If you aren’t the winner, you’re a loser.  In other words, there can be only one winner.  Naturally, if we’re talking about concrete measurements (i.e., the number of baskets completed in a specific time, the precise nanosecond fingers touched the side of the pool, or the calculated score appraisal of a performance), we can shove aside the also-rans. But everyday life is enriched by more than isolated winners.  I’m reminded of Nikki Hamblin and Abbey D’Agostino, the female runners who fell together in their Rio Olympic race.  They could’ve turned on one another with blame.  Instead, they helped each other across the line. The glory of the race winner was overshadowed by their acts of human grace.  Inside, we know there are more satisfying achievements than money, glory, or even power.  Dictators are not the best leaders, because they’re selfish.

In previous posts, I’ve mentioned that I think competition is highly over-rated—as a concept and in practice.  We expend so much energy trying to best the rest of the field that we overlook the potentials we might reach by working together.  For example, I’ve just completed the rough draft of my second novel, but I can’t see it for what it is or isn’t.  If I set it aside for a year, I might be able to approach it as an informed reader, but I’ve wasted enough of my life waiting for “the right time.”  So, I gave my manuscript to other writers.  Each will give me a perspective beyond my own, pointing out strengths and weaknesses I didn’t see.  And when they write their own pieces, I’ll read them as carefully as I can to provide helpful feedback. After a lifetime of working as an individual, I’m finally ready to admit we’re better together. Each of us has something slightly different to share if we share from the essence of our Selves.  We can’t duplicate each other and shouldn’t try.  We need to pause in the race and help each other up.  Thanks for making me a better writer by reading my work!

One comment on “If I Win, You Lose: The Logic of Competition and Jealousy

  1. Chelo Ludden
    September 18, 2016

    So true! Can’t wait to read your new book.

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