Competition: when you have to look outside yourself to assess your own position or worth (WAYNE DYER)

Competition: when you have to look outside yourself to assess your own position or worth (WAYNE DYER)

You can truly victimize yourself, your spouse and your children, by giving excessive competitiveness top priority in your philosophy or behavior. Schools which demand all “A’s” from students, and force them into sometimes vicious competition with each other, may produce a few shining lights—but are those shining lights of heat and pressure what you want for yourself? So what if everyone else looks up to you as the very best? If you need that recognition for your own ego strength, then you are being fulfilled by the plaudits of others rather than from within, and this is one of the surest signs of insecurity and low self-esteem. But even worse, if your worth as a human being is dependent upon your doing things well, being on top, outdoing everyone else, then what will you do when the cheers stop and you are no longer on top? You will collapse because you no longer have a reason to feel worthy.

Competition is one of the major causes of suicide in this country•_ Its primary victims are people had always felt worthy because they were outdoing the other guy. When they “failed” at that, they lost any sense of their own worth, and decided that their miserable lives were not worth living.

The suicide rate among children between the ages of eight and twelve has risen four hundred per cent since 1967. Imagine—young children killing themselves, finding their individual lives are not worth living, many because they believe they must do things better than each other to be worthy. Pressures to get on Little League teams, to get top grades, to fulfill their parents’ goals and please everyone else—these are not the values of life a healthy person will risk his life for, let alone purposely die for.

All human beings are worthy of life, and can be happy and fulfilled, without having to look over their shoulders at other people for their self-myth. In fact, fully functioning people are not interested in doing things better than everyone else; they look inward for their life goals, and know that competition will only dwindle their efforts to accomplish what they uniquely desire. Remember, in order to be in a state called “competition” you must have someone else in the picture for comparison. And when you have to look outside yourself to assess your own position or worth, then you are not in control of your own life. Look inward rather than at how you measure up to the other guy.



Alex was in his mid-forties. He came to me for counseling after suffering a mild heart attack and two bleeding ulcers. He was a perfect example of the business executive who has achieved towering success at the expense of his mental, physical and social health. His marriage was over because his wife had refused to tolerate being married in absentia; his health was in serious jeopardy, and still he was pushing himself beyond tolerable limits. He had become a chronic “social” drinker (alcoholic), and was having two or three equally empty affairs with younger women.

Alex was a striver who had pursued academic excellence with a fury in his college days. He was one of the youngest presidents of a major corporation. And yet if you talked very long with him, you would clearly see that he was a loser. He had been weaned on competition, and it had driven him perilously close to suicide, whether he committed it directly—with pills, a gun, or whatever—or indirectly, by his death-defying life style.

The tone of our counseling together was firm and direct. I pointed out to Alex that he was killing himself because he had placed achievement in the business world above everything else, including his own life. He had systematically ignored everything that he said was of value to him. He talked a good game, but as good an “executive” as he was supposed to be, he was unwilling or afraid to administer his own life for the sake of his own happiness. He said he wanted love, but he ignored those who loved him. He said he wanted peace of mind, but he consumed all his present moments with helter-skelter activity. He said he wanted to be a good father, but he never spent more than a few minutes of the day with his children. He said he wanted health and security, but besides his heart attack and two ulcers, he had driven his blood pressure abnormally high. In fact, everything Alex said was in direct contradiction to his behavior.

I began by encouraging Alex to set up daily goals for himself, rather than make an immediate long-term rearrangement of his life. He would leave the office at a given time of the day, regardless of how important the meeting. This soon taught him that the business would go on without his presence at every meeting. He would mutually arrange to spend an afternoon with his two children, and view the agreement as a legally binding contract.

Before long, Alex developed new, non-competitive, non-flustering behaviors. He learned to slow down, to stop demanding things from himself that required superhuman effort, and to stop insisting that his family be the way he wanted them to be. He was able to effect a trial reconciliation with his wife, and they came to family counseling together. Alex gradually learned to take it easy through the hard work of acquiring new thinking and behavior to slow down his pace, to stop his overcommitment to his job, and to live out what he stated as his life goals.

Some two years later, long after Alex and his family discontinued counseling sessions, he actually quit his job and left the hustle-bustle of New York City to raise farm animals in Montana. He took the active risks of giving up a huge income for a far greater payoff, that is, a far more tranquil life style and a personally rewarding life.

This is not a mythological story. Alex is a real person who made an about face that saved his life. But first he had to rethink what was once the unthinkable, and learn that competition was not the essence of life. He learned a fundamental truth expounded by philosophers over the centuries. Sometimes more is less.’



Occasionally it takes a hard kick in the pants like Alex had received to understand that people are more important than things. You will be a top-level victim if you place a higher priority on the acquisition of goods than you do on human life, particularly your own life. If you devote yourself to things, events, and money, you’ll very likely end up demoralized.

Things-oriented people have a great deal of difficulty relating to others. They find talking with people a chore, and so they often talk at them, order them around, and use them in the acquisition of things. The people who are ordered around resent others attempting to turn them into emotional slaves, so they choose to stay away from these things-oriented people, who then turn even more toward things, and the cycle endlessly repeats itself. Finally the things-oriented person is left with only his things for comfort. But things cannot give comfort, they are sterile, dead and without affection. Things cannot be loved in a mutual way, so loneliness and frustration are the ultimate rewards of overemphasis on achievement and acquisition.

People and living things are all that matter. Without life around you to bounce off of and to share, you have no possibility for joy. If you took away all life, there would be nothing left in the world to have or give meaning. Life is all that counts.




Pulling Your Own Strings

Wayne W. Dyer


Image: J. Mourinho |



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