Humans compete, right? That’s what we do. After all, we’ve gained total domination over the food chain and the all the world’s resources.
Well… actually… scientists have attributed our success as a species not to our ability to compete, but our ability to cooperate. If you’re a real nerd and you’d like to follow a rabbit trail off the actual topic of this blogpost, here’s a scholarly article about it: The Evolution of Cooperation (quite fascinating, really). But, I want to talk about something loosely related.
In the economy of our relationships, there are a store of resources and a set of goals. Productivity, esteem, and attention are based on values. Your personal values will inform your relationships. For example, a few of mine are: honesty, creativity, spirituality, openness, kindness, playfulness, and hard work. As water seeks its own level, so do we seek out those who share our values, but we create problems for ourselves when our intrinsic motivation is competitive.
Fun Fact: Our relationship with ourselves affects our relationships with others and our relationships with others directly inform our relationship to society and ultimately our level of productivity in the social economy.
It’s a really good idea to take a cue from those social science guys and realize that cooperation, not competition is the key to our personal and social success. Life just works better when we are gathering over our values to build one another up and reach them together. Anything else leads to isolation. It’s pretty ironic that when we start to compete with others for esteem and attention, we are really sabotaging ourselves and our society.
The obvious motivation for competition is a sense of threat. So, here we are again: Love Your Awkward Little Self.
Contempt is a nasty old manifestation of this. Contempt is jealousy cleverly disguised as elitism and sounds something like:
- Thank God I don’t have giant knees like that Faith Hill.
- Everyone in this town driving around with these fancy cars is eyeball-deep in credit card debt.
- Justin Beiber is an idiot. I only listen to Scottish Pirate Music with a German ProgRock influence.
Clearly, contempt tears others down to elevate the self. If you catch yourself thinking ugly thoughts and saying ugly things about folks, try to make sure you aren’t being contemptuous.
Side Note: If you find yourself at the butthole end of someone else’s contempt, it would be so nice to realize that they need nurturing and to help them, but be careful that you don’t wind up in someone else’s energy vortex. Takers take until there’s nothing left. Sometimes really helping them means not allowing them to take from you.
Competition can’t exist without rivalry and rivalry is really another word for jealousy. Jealousy takes many forms. Theres’ workplace jealousy, friend jealousy, romantic jealousy, time jealousy, sibling rivalry, etc. Sometimes we’re jealous and we don’t even know it. So, we do stuff that jerks do like convincing ourselves that we are, “offering helpful criticism,” that really translates into, “Let’s remember that you aren’t better than me.”
A problem with this form of competition is that you might actually win, only to find yourself surrounded by people who you chose to put beneath you. People who chose to be beneath you. I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of anything more miserable than being the best person I know.
A better alternative is to look at everyone the same. To realize that we are all flawed and all beautiful. We all have something to teach and something to learn. On a personal note, I believe that we are all divine creations, God-breathed, and meant to be honored and revered.
Seeking out teachers in each of your values is a good place to start. Humbly receiving instruction is a brilliant way to thrive. Seize the opportunity to encourage and build others up. Try not to dwell on flaws, but speak to the highest selves. Instead of “winning,” you may just find yourself surrounded by a bunch of bad @$$e$.
Ironic, isn’t it?