The Science of Self-Competitiveness: An Insightful Overview

Even though competition might be perceived as being stressful at times, there’s no denying that human beings are almost hard-wired to compare themselves to one another – especially once the balance of things slips out of place.  Every day we make a decision as to whether we’d rather cooperate with others, or compete, and new research suggests that we can either choose to constantly bounce between these choices, or self-reflect and compete with our past selves instead.  

Not many acknowledge this, but often it’s not only about competitiveness against others. For the most part, we’re competing against ourselves, in an attempt to be or become a better version of yesterday’s self. And this can be relevant in different aspects of human activities, even pastimes. 

Take something as simple as playing an online casino game. Aside from tournaments, there are no competitors involved in the majority of such games. Therefore, the person is essentially competing against themselves, since each round is an attempt to generate better results than before. Seasoned journalist and online gambling expert at Peter Bennett had an interesting take on this:

“In essence, we’re not competing against anyone, unless the figurative slot machine or RNG is considered as such. Therefore, each gambler is always attempting to get a better result than their previous, in the hope of winning more free spins.”

Competing with Yourself Vs Others

In a study carried out amongst 124 Princeton University students, it transpired that by adding the element of competitive stress to the mix, respondents were able to answer test questions up to 18% more efficiently when they felt less threatened – so is competition bad for our performance? Well, that’s what we’re here to find out.  

While competition should always be about tapping into your unrealized potential, by definition your future self is literally always one step ahead. Competing with others, however, would also imply that rather than playing the game by your own rules, you’d need to follow the rules created by others in order to succeed. By allowing others to define your performance, you’re automatically putting yourself in a position where the goal posts have been set by someone else rather than allowing yourself to decide your own parameters.  

When you’re in competition with yourself rather than others, you’re always going to want to keep in mind here is that most people will remain unbothered by your results. With that in mind, focusing on yourself instead of others is going to be one of the healthiest driving forces if you’re serious about achieving your dreams.

Self Understanding and Acceptance

Understanding who you truly are and accepting yourself for it is one of the most important aspects of personal development and growth. Apart from being more comfortable with yourself and accepting your strengths and weaknesses, there’s also the self-realization that being different doesn’t make you any less important, and you should be looking at your past failures as an opportunity from which to grow.  

It’s going to take a whole deal of honesty, courage and self-awareness to really discover yourself, but in the process you’ll also be boost your self-esteem, embrace your achievements and talents, and allow yourself the chance to make more meaningful connections with others while creating a more fulfilling life for yourself. 

Paving the Way for Healthy Self Competition

When it comes to building the confidence you need to work towards your goals while consistently improving yourself, setting realistic goals is really important if you’re planning on striking a healthy balance of self-competitiveness. For this reason, you’re going to want to align your goals, values and aspirations with what matters most to you. If you’re trying to hit a target simply because someone else is working in that direction, there’s a big chance you might end up losing all your motivation in the process. And if it wasn’t clear enough already, this is the opposite of what we’re trying to achieve here. 

Instead, take the time to really outline what your ultimate goal looks like and, more importantly, how you’re going to get there. Measure your progress and mark out all the steps required to reach it. Put a vision board together if it makes you feel better – but through all this (and we cannot stress this enough!) you do you. 

Progress Not Perfection

They say Rome wasn’t built in a day, and there’s a chance your goals won’t materialize overnight either. Instead of focusing on perfection, shift your focus on the growth and development involved which will in turn allow you to expand on your skills, knowledge and mindset while working towards your achievable goals. 

Embrace a growth mindset, learn from your mistakes, take calculated risks, and move closer towards your goals by entering a healthy competition with yourself rather than giving whatever anyone else is doing too much importance. This will not only lead to a healthier and more positive mindset, but there’s also the increased chance of improving other aspects of your life along the way unexpectedly. 

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, once you discover your power, you become unstoppable. Owning your values, qualities, and choices regardless of how you’re perceived by others is what will allow you to shine rather than glow. While it might be tempting to shift your focus to other people’s accomplishments from time to time, remember that it’s always a much better idea to compete with your past self instead.  Be the hero your future self looks up to. 

Written by Austin Crane

Austin is the principle web director for Untamed Science and Stone Age Man. He is also the web-director of the series for the High School biology, Middle Grades Science and Elementary Science content. When Austin isn't making amazing content for the web, he's out on his mountain bike or in a canoe.

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