Tips For Quelling An Unhealthy Competitive Spirit

Having a competitive go-getter personality can help you in many ways by pushing you to strive for the best outcomes in any or all areas of your life. In the news cycle and media, we often hear about people who have excelled at something, achieved new titles, broken world records, and helped their communities in colossal ways. People who achieve goals are typically praised for their accomplishments, as are the sacrifices they had to make in order to achieve their feat. Making sacrifices is frequently needed, but for people who are overly competitive or have an unhealthy competitive spirit, then the sacrifices and negative impacts of their go-getter objectives can ultimately backfire and they can lose more than they achieve. Learning how to quell an unhealthy competitive component of your personality can help you gain more in the long run.

The desire to succeed, accomplish a goal, and to surpass others in the process is what comprises competitiveness, according to GoodTherapy. Primitively, being competitive is part of every human being's nature and serves as a means of survival. But since we no longer have to fight one another for shelter in the form of a cave or any other out of our prehistoric times, finding a balance between having a competitive edge and mellowing out can lead to positive changes all-around. The keyword here is balance, not eliminating competitiveness. If you are someone who sees every experience as a competition, here are ways you can quell an unhealthy competitive spirit.

Understand why you feel competitive

Since having a competitive awareness helps to keep us alive, competition itself isn't inherently a negative thing, reports A Conscious Rethink. But when being competitive gets in the way of other things in your life, like relationships or your own well-being, then you should consider why you feel so compelled to be competitive. Is it because you feel that you need the accolades and praise from others? Could it be because you feel that you need to prove yourself and your skill level? An unhealthy competitiveness in adults often stems from childhood when they were pressured to prove themselves to earn the attention, love, or approval from their parents. If a child doesn't feel loved unless they excel, then they may grow up believing that they are only good enough when they win. Experiences in childhood can affect a person's self-esteem as an adult, so someone with an unhealthy competitive spirit may simply be seeking love and approval.

For some people who had approval withheld during childhood unless outstanding achievements were accomplished, performing in front of an audience or garnering the praise of their peers may compensate for low self-esteem that has developed as a result of childhood experiences (via GoodTherapy). Other indicators of potentially unhealthy competitiveness are an exhibition of novelty-seeking and neuroticism. There's no single reason why unhealthy competitiveness develops, though identifying the root cause can allow for it to be appropriately addressed, such as through therapy or boosting self-esteem in healthier ways.

Find new ways to boost self-esteem

When someone has an unhealthy competitive spirit, they may be trying to compensate, seek approval they didn't receive in childhood, or attempt to distract themselves from something else in their lives. The National Health Service (NHS) defines self-esteem as how we think of ourselves and the self-opinions we hold. Constantly competing and defining self-value based on how you stack up against other people is destined to set you up for disappointment. Whether low self-esteem stems from childhood or is cultivated over time after habitually comparing one's performance to that of others, quelling an unhealthy competitive spirit can be done by finding healthy ways to boost self-esteem. Like any new habit, it may feel weird or uncomfortable at first, but trust that seeking healthy outlets for reconstructing your self-esteem and building a positive opinion of yourself will make you feel like a winner across the board.

Instead of competing against others, try competing against yourself as a way to ease into finding healthier outlets for feeling good about yourself on your own accord and merit, recommends A Conscious Rethink. For example, try to compete against your own personal record in athletics or score a higher grade on a test than you did on the previous assessment. Competing against yourself rather than measuring your performance against others may admittedly feel weird at first, but remember that's a sign that you're on the right track to building healthy self-esteem based on your own individual accomplishments, rather than through comparison.

Say goodbye to negative thoughts

To say goodbye to low self-esteem and unhealthy competitiveness, you also have to say goodbye to negative thoughts you have about yourself and limiting beliefs, such as the belief that you aren't good enough unless you come out on top by competing against others, per Mayo Clinic. There are a handful of thought patterns that can quickly diminish self-esteem, including self-talk that puts yourself down, perseverating on your perceived faults or mistakes, believing that you're a failure or worthless if you fail to succeed at a task, and translating your feelings into facts that you convince yourself are true. For instance, a common negative thought pattern of unhealthy competitiveness is the all-or-nothing way of thinking combined with fabricating facts, in which someone believes that they're a failure if they don't come out on top and subsequently convinces themselves that feeling like a failure definitively means they are one.

One way to keep tabs on self-criticism is by keeping a small notebook with you to write down negative thoughts you have as they cross your mind, or using an app to write them down on your phone. You can then literally say goodbye to critical thoughts by deleting or erasing them. If you wouldn't say something to a friend, it should be deleted from your own self-talk (via Mayo Clinic). The more aware of negative thoughts you become, the greater likelihood you'll experience being able to dismiss them and implement positive thoughts in their place.

Enjoy spending time with yourself

Finding ways to enjoy spending time with yourself without competition in the mix is a healthy way to boost self-esteem, per the NHS. You don't have to compete against anyone else, including yourself, to have fun with an activity, and you can still celebrate your own skill set without measuring it up to anyone else's ability. Additionally, it's important to remember that you don't have to be good at something to do it. You can indulge in an activity simply because you enjoy it. Whether it's cooking, art, exercise, playing an instrument, or a DIY project, pushing yourself to prioritize things that you enjoy over things that bring out your competitive side can reinforce newfound habits of mitigating negative thought patterns and no longer placing significant weight on how you stack up against others. To enhance the enjoyment of spending time with yourself, take a social media break so you won't be tempted to compare yourself to others while you embrace your own solo time.

If you feel like you could use some extra encouragement as you take up non-competitive activities, invite a supportive friend to join you (via NHS). Surrounding yourself with positive people who value you for who you are instead of what you achieve is one of the best ways to quell unhealthy competitiveness. Try cooking a meal to share with a friend for the purpose of good food and great company, or play a game together without keeping score.

Mind(fulness) over matter

A competitive spirit becomes toxic when self-improvement and self-mastery cease to be the goals and are instead superseded by constant benchmarking against the success of other people, reports Mindful. To redirect a competitive mindset back to seeking accomplishments for the purpose of self-mastery and improving one's own ability for self-growth, mindfulness practices can be immensely helpful. Giving new meaning to the phrase mind over matter, practicing mindfulness can help you shift what matters when it comes to your self-worth and mindset, per Healthline. Repeating a mantra while meditating, or repeating an affirmative phrase to yourself throughout the day, can boost self-esteem and change thought patterns. You can start with a simple phrase like, "I am enough."

If you're someone who becomes exhilarated by the thought of becoming better, visualizing success through meditation can improve your focus and confidence (via Headspace). You may be surprised to learn that the body's central nervous system processes real and imaginary success similarly, thus visualizing achievements through mindfulness and meditation can actually help you achieve better outcomes in practice. Since visualization meditation practices can be so powerful and train your mind to remain calmer and in more control when game time comes around, many athletes use meditation to improve performance. Of course, if your goal is to quell an unhealthy competitive spirit, aim to use meditation as a time to visualize your success when you're holding yourself accountable to your own achievements rather than the results of competing against others.

Celebrate more, compete less

As you become more confident in your individual strengths and what makes you great over how you compare to others, celebrate your progress and personal wins. This will help you turn negative self-talk into positive self-encouragement, per Mayo Clinic. Acknowledge the things you do well throughout the day that bring positive quality to your life, like making a coworker smile by complimenting them or remembering to wish a friend happy birthday. Celebrate the ways in which you succeed even when you aren't being judged against the performance of others, like giving a presentation that keeps the audience engaged and cooking a meal that you know is delicious without feeling the need to be told by others how great it is. When you trust your own abilities, you are creating healthy self-esteem.

You can celebrate the wins of others, too, without conceding that you aren't as good as they are. In fact, celebrating the performance of your competitors is one way that A Conscious Rethink recommends overcoming unhealthy competitiveness. Everyone likes to be complimented, acknowledged, and validated. When a colleague or friend succeeds, offer them genuine congratulations on their accomplishment. By congratulating them, you're breaking down the mental barriers of your own unhealthy competitive spirit. You're also laying the groundwork for building authentic relationships and gaining mutually supportive friendships over winning competitions. Inviting supportive relationships into your life and eliminating negative or toxic ones can keep you on a positive track for quelling an unhealthy competitive spirit.