Competition. Some people thrive on it; others hate it. Regardless of which side you fall on, it’s something you will face eventually. In certain scenarios, a competitive nature is good: it keeps you motivated to work as hard as you can and staves off complacency. By contrast, it can be harmful to you personally and to your relationships with those around you. Today we’re talking about a few of the main problems people deal with when they constantly work against those around them and how to turn that aggressive spirit into a more productive force in your life.

First, consistent one-upping can be extremely harmful to your relations, romantic or otherwise. You may have trouble making friends at school or work because of your always the winner attitude. Perhaps with those close to you, you correct every tiny mistake you see them make, leading to arguments and injured feelings. It could be that when dating, you spend too much time talking about your accomplishments and discounting theirs by comparison. When you enter every interaction with the goal of being better than the other person, you are setting yourself up for failure and dooming your relationships to be full of hurt on both sides. Luckily, there are some ways to focus that energy in a healthier direction, and if a friendship has already been damaged, there are strategies for fixing it.

First, have the courage to apologize for your actions—even if you feel blameless. After you’ve done so, ask for and listen to your peer’s feelings. Every interaction is about give and take, so you need to show them the same attention you want from them. Then, once all the opinions are out in the open, get to work. If you revert to your old ways, you seem insincere, so instead, use these suggestions to aid you in changing your habits. They can also be employed as preventative measures before any damage has been done.

If you need someone to compare yourself to, look inside yourself. Instead of competing against others, make it your goal to be better than the person you were previously. That way, you still have a motivator, but it’s internal, with little chance of harming someone else. 

Additionally, if you feel yourself starting to become jealous of someone else’s success, remind yourself that competitiveness can be harmful and, in this situation, it’s better to be supportive. Remember that they are a different person from you, participating in their own race. It’s impossible for one person to be exactly like another. Besides, can you honestly say that you would be happy if your friend failed? Rather than letting your emotions overwhelm you, just be excited for them. It’s a simple solution that may be hard to master, but through practice, it will become second nature.

As you’ve discovered, an antagonistic nature is bad for your relationships, but it can also damage your mental health. You could feel that if you’re not the best, then you are useless. Your friends or family might be pressuring you to be more successful than everyone else. Maybe your attitude makes it difficult for you to accept loss, instead lashing out at those who have “wronged” you. You may find yourself stressed out over the need to “win” at everything because of the reality that it is impossible to win all the time, especially in the modern age, where our view of another’s life can be heavily distorted to seem much better than it is.

Social media users’ ability to curate their own posts lets them show only the good parts without any of the bad, giving you an unrealistic view of how well off they are. All you can see is the positive in their lives, but you know every part of your own. Often, you end up pitting your worst decisions against their best, and that uneven match-up leads you to be disappointed in yourself. Recognize that the image others project online is often idealized and that any comparisons you might make with yourself are unfair to you.

When you find that you are getting anxious about what you perceive as a failure, remind yourself that you are imperfect, and so is the person you are competing against. You may be unaware of the difficult aspects of their life, but they are there. It’s important to strive to be better than you were before, but as you do so, keep in mind that perfection is impossible, and that’s okay. As long as you’re trying your best, you are doing fine. Instead of focusing on what you’ve done wrong in contrast with what people around you have done right, think about what you have achieved. 

If you take time to look back at where you were before compared to now, you will see that you have changed a lot over the years. You’ve made phenomenal advancements, and made some mistakes too, but the combination of those events made you into who you are today. You are flawed, yes, and there is room to improve, but when you start to feel down, look at your life and remind yourself that you are capable. When you determine your worth based on others’ accomplishments, it can be hard to see that. 

In a recent episode of the Living Full Out Show, inspirational guest Abbey Curran, who was born with cerebral palsy, shares her experience competing in beauty pageants, including the prestigious Miss USA competition, where she became Miss Iowa USA 2008. To hear more of her story and for more advice on how to reach your goals through healthy rivalry, head over to livingfullout.com/radio-show/ and click on the episode titled “Learn How Competing with Others Can Elevate You To Live Full Out.” Together, that show and this article provide you with several new strategies for taking that competitive spirit and channeling it in a positive direction. We believe that you will do great things, so go out and motivate yourself to start living full out! 

Contributing Author: Ariel Zinkan