Is Being Competitive Healthy?
When we watch hockey, we can wear two different sets of glasses. One that sees a highly competitive sport and that you need to be competitive to survive in it, and the other that sees a sport with skill, speed and agility and a small amount of competitiveness thrown in.
Which set of glasses do you wear?
What is ‘competitiveness’?
To be competitive “relates to or is characterized by competition; as good as or better than others of a comparable nature”
So, the whole premise of competitiveness relates to comparison with others.
When I am competitive I am trying to outdo the other person; be seen as ‘better’ than them.
Sure, in a race for the puck you do want to beat your opponent so you can give your team the advantage, but is that about competitiveness or your skill and ability?
Feeling the need to win
Children who grow up constantly needing to win are really crying out for help. Underneath, as Carol Dweck explains, they feel the need to prove themselves all the time.
In their mind, the child thinks that the only way they will be loved is if they win. This isn’t healthy.
Not only does it mean that if the child doesn’t win, they think they aren’t loved, but it also means that they spend their entire time trying to prove themselves to others, rather than simply having fun.
Why do people feel the need to compare themselves to others?
I’m sure that you, as have I, have spent time in your life comparing yourself to others. It is one of those inevitable things that happens when you grow up, with siblings. And as an only child, you will naturally compare yourself to others with siblings.
We compare ourselves because we think that what we have isn’t good enough. Back to that same old space, as wanting to win all the time.
Our mind is playing tricks on us
In reality, we are every bit as good as we need to be. It’s our mind that tells us otherwise.
So, for a child that continually needs to win or think they aren’t as good as another child, it’s time to talk to them about the need to win.
Could you have numerous conversations with them, and notice I said numerous because this isn’t going to change with one conversation, about what they feel when they think they need to be the winner.
Your own self-reflection might help
What I’ve noticed in having these conversations is that the more I am able to share with my child, from my own perspective, my own experience of what I’m talking about, the more they hear.
In those conversations we are equals. Human beings with a shared experience. Often I will talk about how I felt and the child will say “Yeah, me too.”, or they will nod, letting you know they connected with what you said.
It’s therefore useful for you to take a look inside yourself and notice how competitive YOU are, and why you think you need to be that way.
Then share what you found with your child.
There is nothing wrong with striving to win
It is great to set yourself a goal of winning, in the sense of being the best you can be. That is not the same as winning at all cost.
Doing your best based on your skill, knowledge and ability to have fun is far healthier than being super competitive.
Maybe the first step is to notice how competitive you see your child as then look inside yourself as to whether you are the same?
Karen Cherrett is a Sports Mindset Coach who specializes in coaching hockey players. Karen coaches players to be more focused and play with ease, not stress. And their parents to support their child in the best possible way. Life playing hockey should be fun. Mindset matters. Mental health matters. Hockey should be fun, not emotionally overloading.