Most of us are uncomfortable with our competitiveness. Competitive thoughts are rarely nice. They’re usually exaggerated, and often unsettling. And why wouldn’t they be? Competing itself is, by nature, fairly uncomfortable. Nevertheless, allowing ourselves to feel our competitive feelings cleanly and directly is not only acceptable, it’s actually healthy. Our competitive feelings are an indication of what we want, and acknowledging what we want is key to getting to know ourselves.
Competitive feelings don’t discriminate. They can be felt toward distant strangers or our closest friends: that attractive co-worker we’ve only heard about or our best friend since we were toddlers. However, because these feelings often feel unacceptable to us, we tend to ward them off or disguise them in ways that can be hurtful to ourselves and to others. When we suppress these feelings, we leave them to fester and impact us in a variety of negative ways.
It’s important to get comfortable with our competitive feelings. We can do this by recognizing that thoughts and feelings are separate from actions. We can allow ourselves to feel whatever we feel, then choose how we behave. By applying this principle to our competitive feelings, we can avoid their many negative manifestations. These include:
Cynicism — When we fail to acknowledge our competitive feelings, we are more likely to become cynical. This may sound counterintuitive. Wouldn’t putting someone else down or wanting what they have make us more cynical? Actually, competitiveness is very different from cynicism. Cynicism arises when we won’t accept our competitive feelings simply for what they are. If, for example, our boss was to acknowledge a coworker in a meeting, we may think, “Wait! I want that recognition. I work just as hard and am worthy of just as much praise.” We may turn against our coworker. “What a kiss up! She doesn’t even deserve this. She’s barely competent. Why am I even trying at this company when idiots like her reap all the rewards?”
When this less-than-pleasant thought process arises, we can take one of two courses. We can accept that we are competitive. We can feel outright that we want acknowledgment in our career. When we let ourselves experience these feelings, fully and directly, in the moment, we can more easily move on. We can even channel these feelings into being more motivated, working harder or setting specific goals for ourselves.
On the flip side, we can distort our competitive feelings into cynicism. We can allow them to well up or fester within us. We can confuse them with our real point of view or turn against the person with whom we feel competitive. Instead of seeing that we simply want what the person is getting and moving on, we can engage in a destructive thought process that negatively colors the world we live in.
Gossip — When we deny our competitive feelings, we may slowly start to distort those around us through a negative lens. Gossip is a way we attempt to release or relieve our anger or cynicism. Instead of feeling competitive with that very attractive woman who is friendly and confident in her demeanor, we may comment on her “slutty style” or refer to her as a “phony tease.” We may even gossip about people close to us, saying one thing to their face and another behind their back.
Our feelings toward a person aren’t black or white. In fact, the people we most respect are the people we are bound to feel most competitive with. We can be happy for them and hate them all at the same time — often for the same thing. We may be thrilled that they just bought their stunning dream house and simultaneously wish that it would get termites. If we face our feelings directly, we can get some relief, even laugh them off. If we don’t, we may start taking less respectful actions, maybe calling our friend a “social climber” when he isn’t around or criticizing his “materialistic goals” or “superficial interests” to a mutual friend. This commentary or gossip may feel good in the moment, but it leaves us feeling pretty lousy within ourselves.
Self-denial — One of the worst results of denying our competitive feelings is that it can cause us to reject what we really want in life. Because feelings of desire or jealousy make us uncomfortable, we may pretend that we don’t want whatever we once longed for anymore. If someone we had a crush on goes out with someone else or if a job we interviewed for falls through, we can easily turn against ourselves and become self-denying. Instead of thinking, “I really wanted that, and I’m furious that I didn’t get it,” we might think, “I don’t even care. I never really wanted that. I’m not going to put myself out there to embarrass myself again.” When we engage in this pattern, we become increasingly passive. Rather than going after what we desire, we avoid it, all in the interest of denying our “unacceptable” competitive feelings.
Jealousy — Competitive feelings can be full of jealousy. Allowing ourselves to have competitive thoughts will not leave us falling victim to unstoppable fits of envy or suspicion. When we hold back our healthy and natural competitive feelings, we strengthen the negative parts of those feelings — jealousy included. Instead of building a case against someone, we can face the reality of our feelings and adopt a healthier attitude.
For example, a guy I know recently revealed to me a thought process he went through at a party with his girlfriend. He noticed that she was happily chatting with other people, including a few men throughout the night. At first he thought, “She is totally flirting with my friend. Why does she light up around him? Is she more into him than me? I should just dump her before she makes a fool out of me.”
At a certain point, he realized that what he was really feeling was competitive. He wanted her to respond to him the way she was responding to other people at the party. His thinking quickly changed to, “I love when she is fun like this. I want to share that with her.” Instead of listening to the voice in his head that told him to pull away and act cold to her, he joined her and engaged in joking around with her. By being lighthearted and fun himself, she was naturally drawn to him, and they were both able to feel closer and happier with each other. If he’d acted on his jealous insecurities, rather than admitting he felt competitive, he would have achieved just the opposite.
Self-hatred — Another risk of burying our competitive feelings is that we may turn them around and use them to feel bad about ourselves. A straightforward competitive thought like, “I hate that he is so smart and always says the right thing,” may turn into an attack toward ourselves like, “You are so stupid. You never know what to say. He is so much more engaging than you.” When we turn against our competitive feelings, we turn against ourselves. We feel ashamed of who we are and what we want. Instead of seeking to emulate the people we admire, we simply tear ourselves down in relation to them.
With so many negative manifestations of suppressing our direct competitive feelings, how can we face them more honestly and make sure to use them in healthy ways? First of all, we have to remember that feeling competitive is not about letting these emotions take over or ruminating in negative thoughts. It’s about accepting our naturally occurring competitive responses, feeling them fully and moving on. We can accept that we have these feelings a lot of the time. We can even have fun with them, letting ourselves have the nastiest thought possible, then letting that thought go.
Doing this as an exercise can feel clean, healthy and even refreshing. As illustrated by the above examples, when we suppress our competitive feelings, they have a way of seeping into and influencing our behavior. Yet, each time we acknowledge that we have these thoughts, we can consciously choose how we want to act. We can be much more proactive in becoming the best version of ourselves, both accepting ourselves and evolving, as the motivated (and competitive) individuals that we inherently are.
Read more from Dr. Lisa Firestone at PsychAlive.org
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GPS Guides are our way of showing you what has relieved others’ stress in the hopes that you will be able to identify solutions that work for you. We all have de-stressing “secret weapons” that we pull out in times of tension or anxiety, whether they be photos that relax us or make us smile, songs that bring us back to our heart, quotes or poems that create a feeling of harmony, or meditative exercises that help us find a sense of silence and calm. We encourage you to look at the GPS Guide below, visit our other GPS Guides here, and share with us your own personal tips for finding peace, balance and tranquility.
By Rob White
We’re told, “Stop gazing out the window. Stop daydreaming; it’s a big waste of time.”
And yet, the fact of the matter is that your world, and everything you experience in your world, is an out-picturing of inner pictures. Constructive daydreams are the instrument by which you create your world.
Go ahead: Gaze out the window, daydream about the future. Successful achievements begin with inner visions that you create while in the shower or stuck in traffic. However, you can’t stop there! You must repeat those visions over time until they are very clear in your mind. The clearer the picture, the more real it feels.
Felt visions become the initial substance that causes changes in your life — not figuratively, but actually. A daydream that you can feel, although it starts out as fantasy, will harden into fact. But, when there’s doubt, you live without, because the vision is fuzzy and your feelings are nebulous.
Below, find a recipe for turning daydreams into future facts.
Visit RobWhiteMedia.com and download the free Daily WOW! Smart Phone App. Now you can or order a free copy of Rob’s book, 180 to help you stay cool, calm and collected throughout your day.
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There are myriad things that can and will go wrong every single day of your life. (And hey — there’s also plenty that goes right, so keep track of that, too.)
Many of us allow one sour moment to spoil what would have otherwise been a perfectly sweet day. But it doesn’t have to be this way. There are simple — really simple — ways to keep your stress in check and stop agonizing over the inevitable.
“We’re living in a society where we think the answers have to be really complicated,” says Kathy Gruver, Ph.D., author of “Conquer Your Stress With Mind/Body Techniques.” “We tend to complicate our own lives, but things can be ridiculously simple — and still work.” The next time there’s a bump in the road, remember a few of these mental tactics below to help yourself smoothly redirect back on course.
Just. Stop. Thinking. About. It.
Certain pain, like an aching back, feels impossible to ignore. But agonizing over what hurts won’t help you to feel any better. Instead, you’re just suffering twice (once in your head, once in your back). “You have the choice to think about something else,” says Gruver, which is a somewhat shockingly simple truth. Just. Stop.
Focus on the breath.
“Breathing is so cool because it happens automatically and it’s something we can control,” Gruver says. Breath concentration works anywhere and it gives you something positive to focus on. Gruver suggests thinking “I am,” on your inhale and “at peace” on your exhale. This technique it powerful: It overrides negative thoughts and redirects your focus. “It’s hard to stop thinking things, but it’s easy to replace those thoughts with something else.”
Don’t beat yourself up if nonsense thoughts creep their way in (what will I make for dinner?). It’s normal and natural for this to happen, but judging yourself for it sort of defeats the purpose of the practice. Gruver says to dismiss these thoughts without judging yourself for having them, and carry on.
Visualize something that doesn’t make you anxious.
“Visualization gives you control and can help decrease your pain.” Visualize anything from your favorite vacation spot when you’re feeling on edge to your body actually healing itself when you’re experiencing physical pain. “The more real you can make it, the more it’s going to work.” The doctor herself visualizes a “little construction worker” moving around her body, working to mend and heal her whenever she feels achy or sick.
Use cues to remind you to be mindful.
“Mindfulness isn’t about setting time aside and sitting on the pillow for meditation,” says the practitioner. “Mindfulness is about making your everyday activity a meditation.” There are times when the practice of being mindful seems to slip our minds, and we get caught up in the heat of the moment. In these cases, it can be helpful to use “mindful cues” to bring us back to center. Whether it’s an alarm on your phone, an app that reminds you to breathe or even the laugh of your colleague that you choose to associate with being present, setting these little reminders will prevent the chaos of the day from becoming too much to bear.
Rely on a someone you trust.
When you want to start making changes, ask a confidant to be a gentle reminder. If you want to stop complaining about your boss, mention it to someone you’re close to. He’s more likely to catch — and stop — you in the act. It’s a system that’ll keep you in check when you react to a stressful situation rather than respond to it.
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