A dear friend of mine had entered and won beauty pageants from the age of five though twenty-one. Well, the truth is her mother entered her in these pageants sparing no expense for dresses, ball gowns and the travel budget that was often required to compete. My friend certainly was beautiful with golden blonde hair, big blue eyes and a nice figure. She twirled flaming batons as her talent and had a gentle southern accent to deliver her required speech on something patriotic. It was easy to see why she came in first place over and over. But, the pageants didn’t do her any favors from my perspective as an outsider.
On the short list, they boosted her level of insecurity creating constant self-evaluation, she was judgmental of other women – competitor or not – and she was even somewhat aggressive towards others off stage as much as she was on stage. It was as if the competition mindset had no boundaries and everyone was a threat to her. I call this phenomenon post-competition aggression and it is common in many other contests affecting competitors and fans alike. For instance, fans of one team automatically behave aggressively toward fans of another team for no reason other than they favor the opponent- before, during and after the game. It’s sheer madness. Two questions arise from this competition mindset. One, why are we so aggressive in competitions? Two, why are we aggressive toward others even after the competition has ended?
We are aggressive in competitions because we are trained to believe that being aggressive, clawing our way to the top of the pile no matter how we get there and staying on top is what it takes to be powerful and to survive. This is simply not true. Such beliefs are merely trained into us and come from the conditioned mind whose foundation is a sense of lack and fear; it’s the “I’m not good enough” mantra that we have been taught to believe- the one that plays relentlessly in our subconscious. Everything is driven by this belief, except for those actions that are motivated by pure love.
We learn this subconscious mantra through the cues and clues we receive from caregivers, other family members, friends, teachers and society at large as they talk to us and about us from the moment we are born. From this we gain a sense of who we are; an “I” is born. But, this mind-created person we call “I” is nothing more than the culmination of other people’s ideas about themselves and the world simply misplaced on us. So, this “I” isn’t really who we are. In a world where we believe the mind-created “I” is us, competition on all levels is the only option.
Competition Breeds Hostility
There is a lot of evidence proving competition isn’t good for us. It creates shame, stress, separation and a poor self-image. In school, it reduces learning as winning becomes more important than gaining knowledge. In the workplace it reduces productivity and effectiveness, collaboration and trust. We are taught to be competitive early in life so we can be better than we think we are. But, competitions don’t work that way for us. Winning never relieves us of not feeling good enough.
Competitions also breed aggression and hostility by their very nature because everyone can’t win a contest. Any competitor who doesn’t come in first place loses. Second place is not the winner and neither is third place. Losing a competition makes us even less than we already think we are. A person who believes they aren’t good enough can’t afford to take such “hits”. Losing causes stress and anger which turn into aggression and hostility. Amazingly, winning has the same outcome – aggression and hostility. What got us to the winner’s circle has to be continued so we can get there the next time, too.
Outside of the competition, the mindset continues to all situations and all people, not just competitors. The pattern becomes ingrained and as such stays with us and generalizes to each new situation we encounter and each new person we meet. If someone close to us succeeds we automatically replay that mind-created story that begins with the phrase, “I’m not good enough.”
The competition mindset has no room for trust, collaboration or love. Instead, in this mindset we see others as the enemy, the people to beat and the people who stand in the way of us winning. On a subconscious level, these are the people who keep us from being good enough. The result is justified aggression and meanness that knows no boundaries. We carry it into our daily lives and treat family, friends and others as if they are competitors. It’s just not necessary to do this. It’s time for us to see the truth about who we are really battling and embrace the true remedy-self-love.
Competing Against Our Own Mind
We are aggressive even after the competition is over because we are really competing against our own mind, not other people. We are competing against the belief that we are not good enough and we are competing as someone who isn’t really us. It is a hellish existence, but, we aren’t aware of these circumstances so we do what we have been taught – to look outside of ourselves to feel better. We compete and we acquire.
We were taught that our value is found in possessions; the more we have, the more we are. This untrue belief drives us to adopt roles, like that of a fierce competitor and “the one who is the best”. Winning satisfies our need to possess that which is outside of us in order to make us feel better about ourselves (trophies, crowns, sashes and status), quieting the self-demeaning mind, even if only temporarily.
In an attempt to gain relief from the pain created by the thoughts we have about ourselves, we project those thoughts onto others. So, instead of thinking we aren’t good enough, we think others aren’t good enough. This projection takes the focus off of us for the time being and makes us feel superior compared to others.
With projection comes the stories we tell ourselves about others – who they are and how they are. These stories are completely made up in our mind. They are not real or true no matter how much we convince ourselves that they are. The stories are nothing more than a decoy. Their sole purpose is to keep the focus off our belief that we are not good enough and thereby release us from the pain that causes. But those stories don’t belong to anyone but us. And no one can relive the pain in our mind caused by our thoughts except for us. Each of us has to heal ourselves. That healing process begins with awareness.
We have to recognize our beliefs, thoughts and projections for what they are. To recognize them, they usually have to create enough unhappiness in us that we finally take note. Two hints to assist you are:
- Look for repetitive thought patterns that cause unhappiness in you.
- Stop blaming other people and situations for your unhappiness.
Once we reach this point in the awareness stage, we can move into the observer stage where we watch our thoughts without getting so involved in them.
Our new observer position allows us to see our thoughts as nothing more than our trained lack and fear thinking and not the “I”. We realize there is more to us than our thoughts and projections. At some point our recognitions and observations become stronger than our trained thinking and we no longer follow that which arises from lack and fear. The deep truth within us shines through. What is the deep truth within us? It’s that we are love itself and this is what is natural and real. Once this is understood and experienced, there is nothing to do except to love.
Winning Begins with Love
The love that begins to shine through for us is self-love. Self-love is the key to all love. What is self-love? It’s self-acceptance. In fact, you can replace the word love with accept. If you love/accept yourself without the need to compete on any level to feel good enough, if you love yourself without judgment and without demeaning self-talk, you will love others the same way. Conversely, if you love others without competing, without judging and without conditions, you will love yourself. You can start anywhere with love. It expands automatically in all directions.
This is the experience of truth and of love, which are one in the same. We don’t make the experience happen, it just happens. Our job is simply to become aware of the mantra and then notice the beliefs and thoughts tied to that mantra. It is not always easy to do, but it is possible. As we stop our involvement with the lack and fear thinking, the love shines through automatically. This is who we are. It is who we have always been. It’s our expression of love that shapes our experience of life -our kindness, our collaboration, our understanding – involving all for the benefit of the whole. We just have to remember this.
There is no need for competition in a world that teaches their children that they are good enough just as they are. Competition would look a lot different with this as the mindset. We don’t need to win competitions to survive; we need to embrace love. Love is the real key to our survival. Be the love that you are in all situations. You will see that with love, everyone wins.