Do you get upset whenever someone says you’re their competitor? Deborah Tan says you shouldn’t and in fact, you should learn to see it in a more positive way.
I used to cringe at the words “competitor” and “competition”. Why? Well, let’s just say I’m the sort who would pick running a marathon over a 100m sprint just because in the former, you are encouraged to “run your own race”. And even though many of my friends have described me as a competitive person, my brand of competitiveness focuses on improving myself rather than taking people down.
Recently, a friend brought up how her boss told her that we – Material World – are their “competitors” and she was therefore not allowed to do business with us. It didn’t come as a shock – we weren’t expecting to be received with open arms in the first place. But what surprised me was how well (as in, I didn’t lose sleep over it) I took the news.
In another life, I would have taken to being called a “competitor” very badly. It would have hurt my feelings to know that there was a person out there who thought my presence in his life was unwanted, a nuisance, and something to be crushed. The old Deborah would have wanted to find out how I could go back to being “liked” by this person, I would have done all I could to be viewed as an ally, a friend, and a partner.
As I mulled over what my friend told me, something lit up inside me. Her boss had, unexpectedly, paid us the ultimate compliment.
The Unexpected Compliment
When and why do we see someone else as competition?
Imagine this: You’re dating a guy and you find out another woman has her sights set on him. Upon further investigation, you discover that (1) she’s not attractive (2) her personality isn’t that great either and (3) she’s just not his type. Would you worry? Would you see her as a worthy competitor?
To call someone your competitor, you are actually paying that person a compliment. You are:
1. Telling her that she’s doing something right
2. Telling her that she worries you
3. Telling her that you are thinking about her more than you care to admit
You only see someone as the competition when you feel threatened.
Are You Afraid?
Predictably, most people react to competition the same way Margaret Chan’s character in Masters Of The Sea, an old TV series in the 90s, would – crush them like a cockroach. While loathing and despise are two of the emotions most of us would bear towards our competitors, the one we don’t like to acknowledge is FEAR. Fear that the competition would do better, fear that the competition would prove us wrong, and fear that the competition would make us irrelevant. The more negatively we approach competition, the more it shows how great our fear towards it.
Dealing With Competition In A Healthy Way
There is definitely a better, healthier way to deal with competition. Lisa Firestone, Ph.D, on Psychology Today states that, “… feeling competitive is 100 percent natural, and it is impossible to avoid it. The trouble comes when we start to express these feelings by lashing out at others or turning on ourselves. … Listening to and acting on our critical inner voice is the worst thing we can do when we feel competitive.”
To deal with competition in a clean and healthy way, Firestone recommends these steps:
1. Accept the competitive thought for what it is. Don’t rationalize or justify it. Allow yourself to take pleasure the angry thought. We are all just only human.
2. While competitive thoughts are acceptable because we are not infallible, being cruel to someone is not. Don’t start building a case against the person you’re feeling competitive with. Learn to let go.
3. Compete by challenging your inner critical voice, and not by diminishing the worth of the other person. Why try to slow your competitor down when you should aim to be faster and better?
One of the questions I’ve always hated answering is, “Who do you see as your competition?” If you have ever asked me this, you will know one of my favorite answers is, “There’s no competition because there is no one like me.” I never believe in competing with other people because I believe I am unique and what I have to offer is always going to be different. I believe in being the best I can be so people would find it hard to one-up me. To my friend’s boss, I would like to end this by assuring you that, as always, my greatest competitor is myself and while I thank you for seeing me as your competitor, I would like to say you’re definitely not mine.
Have a great week ahead!
About The Author: Deborah Tan is a founder of Material World. After 10 years of working in magazines Cleo and Cosmopolitan Singapore, she is now a freelance writer/editor who works on this website full-time. She likes liquid eyeliners, bright red lipsticks, tattoos, rock & roll, Mad Men, and Suits. She doesn’t believe in spending her time plotting and scheming to take the competition down, she believes in getting so far ahead, no one can catch up. Follow her on Twitter @DebTanTweets.