When everyone is a winner, the valuable lessons gained from healthy competition can be lost. While it is good to help everyone feel like a success, and a valued member of society, our school, or our church, competition can be a good thing, too. It can shape you into a confident, resilient person who remembers where worth actually comes from - God’s love for us. Competition is everywhere, including school, sports and the professional world. We have to compete in order to get into college or land a great job. If everyone's a winner all the time, we don’t have a chance to gain experience in what it’s like to lose gracefully, grow from experiences and move on with self-esteem intact. In this article, we explore 5 important values of competition, and how they actually serve to build character more than participation trophies.
Competition is a Great Source of Motivation
Competition is one of the best sources of motivation. Have you ever noticed you run a little faster when you’re exercising with a friend? Have you ever accomplished something amazing when striving to do well in a challenge against peers? When it’s approached in a healthy, positive way, competition can provide the motivation to improve performance. This means you might study just a little bit harder, or train a little longer when you have someone to beat. Very simply put, competition provides a reason to put forth effort.
Competition Builds Self-Esteem
Building a healthy sense of self-worth is an important part of high school. It may seem counterintuitive, losing in competition is the ultimate way to build up your self-worth. If we can handle losing a football game, or being passed over for a role in the school musical, we tend to emerge with an understanding that life goes on, and we are still a whole, worthy being, despite the apparent loss. As we are reminded in John 3:1, we are children of God. That makes us worthy, win or lose.
Winning and Losing Gracefully Are Important Life Skills
Competing against peers in academics, sports, or extra curricular activities affords the opportunity to practice our reactions, whether we win or lose. Of course, experiencing authentic emotions is important, but being an unbearable winner, or a sore loser goes too far and can have negative effects on relationships and opportunities. Imagine missing out on promotion at your first professional job and cursing, yelling or pouting all day after you find out. That type of behavior signals immaturity and perhaps a miopic view of your own professional life. Or, what if you are the one who got the promotion, and you whoop and holler and say “in your face” to everyone who didn’t get the position? What if you rudely tell everyone exactly how much of a raise you got? Either way, extreme reactions to competition are not attractive. Remember 2 Corinthians 8:7, “But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also.”
Learning New Skills is a Direct Path Toward Self-Improvement
Competition is a great way to learn new skills. Working toward a goal means seeking improvements in performance, no matter the area of life. You may seek an alternative problem solving method to win an academic contest, try out new ways of forming an argument for a competitive debate, or add a different combination of strength training moves to your routine in preparation for a big tournament. Think of healthy competition as an opportunity to improve your own skill set.
Competition Contributes to Overcoming Fear
One of the most important benefits of competition is that it helps you to get past fear. We all have a certain level of fear when it comes to proving ourselves or our skills in a competitive environment, but facing that - and getting past it - allows us to learn we can survive. Seeing competition as a way to grow makes those butterflies we may get at the start of an important challenge start to feel more like excitement than fear. And, later in life, when we’re presenting a bid, interviewing or facing other fears at work, we know it’s possible to get through the challenge, win or lose.
Competition is healthy. It helps us to understand that we may not always be the best at everything, and that’s okay. We can compete, lose, and learn how to handle that loss with grace. It is a great way to build outstanding character, and faith in ourselves. However, when we’re drawing all of our worth from winning, or facing depression or emotional distress when we don’t, it might be time to step back, pray and remember that worth comes from God, no matter what. He will always love us and care for us, even if we don’t always win.