Live Through This

By Far the Best Article Ever Posted on Rookie

I’m trying to allow myself to accept that it’s awesome to be competitive sometimes, but not about everything, all the time, what is sleep I’m too busy trying to beat my own high score on Angry Birds yet again aaaaaaaaah WHY AM I NOT GOOD ENOUGH.

Collage by Emma D.

I am a really competitive person. I apply a competitive mindset not only to the big stuff, like my GPA and my jobs, but also to seemingly inconsequential things, like being the very best possible gift-giver or Twitterer or Scrabble player. In fact, most of my friends know not to play any board game with me unless they’re prepared to go hard in the paint.

A few weeks ago, my boyfriend, one of our friends, and I were having a “casual” game night in my living room. We started out dealing hands of Uno, which is still my favorite card game of all time, despite the face that I am now old enough to legally gamble, because I am a really cool, mature person. After I lost three rounds, I insisted we move on to something else, snottily explaining to the guys that Uno didn’t really take any skill or strategy (even though it clearly does, because otherwise it wouldn’t be my favorite). Instead, I pulled out Mastermind. It’s a two-person game in which one player sets up a row of colored pegs, which are hidden from the second player. The second player then uses the process of elimination to guess the correct order and colors of the pegs. My losing streak continued despite the game change, to my barely suppressed fury. It was just one of those nights that everyone has sometimes where you can’t seem to win at anything, and although that’s totally normal and whatever, I was NOT HAVING IT. Since board games weren’t working out for me, I suggested we try a different test of skills—namely, sliding down my long hallway on our knees to see who could get the farthest. My companions got tired of the game early on, but I tried and tried and tried to keep going, way past the point of reason. After many running starts, my knees were as bruised as my ego.

So what? you might be thinking. Why do you care so much about the fact that you didn’t win anything on some dumb game night? The answer is, I don’t know! I don’t know why I’m still thinking about an unremarkable, friendly evening that happened weeks ago! But I am, because, like I said, I’m super competitive, and as great a motivator as that can be in stuff like school and sports, it can also be a not-so-positive thing if you let it dominate your brain.

Sometimes the good aspects of this trait are inextricable from the negative ones. During the day, I work a retail position at a clothing store. I receive a commission for everything I sell, so obviously that’s a huge incentive to work really hard. But you know what? I don’t think of the extra money I make as something I’ll eventually see in my bank account—I think of my commission total as a high score that I need to strive to outdo every day that I’m working. While this helps me perform really well at what I do, it can also be unreasonable. If I don’t break a certain amount of sales during a shift, I feel like I’m losing a life in Super Mario, or falling victim to some other kind of marked setback. It’s like, if I had only been better at playing the game that I make my job into, I would have deserved the money—and impressed my manager—more. That’s another aspect of it: a lot of my competitiveness stems from an exceptional need to please other people, like my bosses—even if they don’t really care one way or the other how I do so long as I don’t come to work in pajamas. I’m always looking for special recognition, from myself and others, which isn’t always healthy. My self-esteem probably shouldn’t hinge on how many jackets I can sell in a seven-hour period, should it?

Of course, it’s more than that. My rabid need to outperform and impress extends to wanting to be every professor’s favorite student, the perfect daughter, and, in my worst moments, the hottest girl in the room. While the first two of these are acceptable (though occasionally dangerous) things to want, that last one is pretty disturbing any way you slice it. Throughout much of my life, I pretty much felt like a slime monster in terms of my own self-image and attractiveness. My insecurities caused me to compare myself with and actively resent other girls, whom I perceived as my “competition” for male attention. Ugh.

Obviously, there were more than a few things wrong with this mindset, as I learned at the age of 13, when a close friend of mine and I continually got crushes on the same people. Sometimes we would even hook up with them, one of us right after the other. Does that sound insane? Well, it was! We were constantly comparing ourselves, subtly insulting each other, and trying to have the guys corroborate our self-imposed stories of, like, WHO WAS THE BETTER KISSER or WHO WAS PRETTIER. When I got to high school, I met an all-new pool of people who didn’t compete in this way, which led me to realize that my social and romantic life didn’t have to be limited to a weird, backstabby psychodrama. My eyes were opened to the fact that no relationship, platonic or otherwise, should be a constant power struggle. I excused myself from that friendship. Even though I felt like I was “letting her win” at first, I soon felt miles better about myself.

Even though I finally saw that competing for the attention of guys would perpetuate all-around bad feelings and negativity, I still felt a sense of competition about my looks and personality for a while afterwards. The impulse to be better than anyone and everything, especially other women, is one I have to constantly try to control. That’s right, guys—I even need to compete with my own competitiveness in order to keep myself in check. OY VEY. But at least I’m trying.

The key to maintaining my competitive streak as just that, a streak, rather than a river running red with the blood of my perceived opponents, is being able to recognize that it’s unreasonable to expect perfection from myself in every realm of my life. The other day, I won two writing awards offered by my college. When I got the news, I felt a little sick, despite placing first in one of the three categories I had entered and receiving an honorable mention in another. The disappointment that I wasn’t recognized in the third category outweighed the pride I should have felt for doing well in the other two, which is an absolutely insane and ungrateful way to see that situation. No one likes the person who complains about getting an A- while others are struggling to maintain Cs, and it’s often hard for me not to be that asshole.

I’m trying to allow myself to accept that it’s awesome to be competitive sometimes, but not in reference to everything, all the time, what is sleep I’m too busy trying to beat my own high score on Angry Birds yet again aaaaaaaaah WHY AM I NOT GOOD ENOUGH. It can be really helpful to remind myself that everything I’ve accomplished is not, in fact, invalidated by the the goals I haven’t blasted through just yet, especially not the ones that have to do with pixellated wars against green pigs. Part of this is allowing myself a little bit of time to be proud of the things I’ve done before I move on to trying to demolish my next task. After all, what’s the point of working hard if you can’t enjoy the results of your efforts? When you feel like your temples are about to pop from the stress of trying to be the best at everything all the time no matter what, RELAX FOR A SECOND THERE, SPEEDY. Remember that while you can use your competitiveness as a motivator, it shouldn’t make you feel inadequate. Take a good look at everything you’ve accomplished so far, appreciate that a good sense of competition helped you get there, and realize that you can pull off more great things in the future—even if you’re not doing so in five different fields at a time while simultaneously looking super cool and executing a perfect backflip. Come on—we both know that would look a little weird, anyway. ♦

45 Comments

  • moonchild May 31st, 2012 3:15 PM

    yeah.

    I’m also a really competitive person, but it plays out weirdly because I’m so competitive that I try to avoid competition. I mean, that may be one of the reasons I wear such weird clothes, like I know if I wear stuff similar to what everyone else is wearing, then I will lose, because I can’t keep up. But if I wear totally unique stuff, then I won’t have to compete with anyone, so I automatically win. You know?

    I guess I also am kind of competitive for attention. I want to be that weird, cool, girl that people I don’t even know talk about. And I know this is so stupid, but I kind of get caught up in being known. That’s why I could never relate to those TWEEN BOOKS because the girls were always like “I JUST WANTED TO FIT IN” and I’m always thinking WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO FIT IN, YOU DUMDUM?

    So yeah. Now I feel really exposed and kind of like a really superficial person ☹

    But just to be clear, that’s not the only reason I wear my crazy stuff. I also have a huge imagination and I think Abercrombie is ugly ☺

    Love,
    Gwen
    http://under-a-bridge.blogspot.com/

    • RockHatesMiriam May 31st, 2012 4:38 PM

      ^ This is me all over. BROTHER FROM ANOTHER MOTHER. (ick. I can’t beleive I just said that. Don’t judge me. YOLO.)

      http://www.pompandceremony.blogspot.com

      • moonchild May 31st, 2012 4:58 PM

        hehe we must be related! OH MY GOD I JUST REMEMBERED WHO YOU ARE!!! YOU ARE THE GIRL WHO HAD THE SAME IDEA AS ME LIKE A YEAR BEFORE I HAD IT BUT I HAD NEVER SEEN YOUR BLOG OR ANYTHING OMG WEIRDNESS VIBES GOIN ON HERE!

        Haha and yolo to you too.

        • RockHatesMiriam June 3rd, 2012 4:17 PM

          OMG WEIRDNESS VIBES INDEED!
          I didnt know you read rookie, its a small world!!!

  • mayaautumn May 31st, 2012 3:28 PM

    this is so prompt – it was our tutor group sports challenge thing at school today and i couldn’t help noticing how competitive loads of people are… meh, I’m really not competitive at all and that’s probably the reason why I’m not too good at sports! even though i enjoy p.e, i don’t exactly see the point of being competitive.. after all, ‘it’s just a game’!!
    (haha, great title (and article) btw!)

    http://cottonmixblog.blogspot.com

  • Narita May 31st, 2012 3:30 PM

    I KNOW THAT. I’m like one of the youngest editors/bloggers of my country, I write for multiple sites and I’ve got pretty much readers, but is it enough? No. I’m fourteen and therr’s that one sixteen year old girl in a staff that I’m part of as well, and he’s completely in the world of journalism. He can get every job he wants and is only two years older: It makes me feel like a failure.

  • Muna May 31st, 2012 3:36 PM

    Thank you Amy Rose for your article – was really helpful / inspiring / aha! moment-ish
    (I am in my can-not-decide-what-word-i-will-use phase so yeeeeaaah!)
    & I adore the title btw! :)

    • Amy Rose May 31st, 2012 5:00 PM

      Anaheed came up with it! But I completely agree with it (in a very serious and non-ironic way, of course).

  • teenager May 31st, 2012 3:52 PM

    it was interesting to read this, cause I’m verrrrry NOT competitive, which is a surprising to people considering I have a good deal of motivation. I guess you could say I’m competitive with myself? if that makes any sense, baha

    oh, + the art and the title for this piece is genius genius genius!

    http://interstellarsuburbia.wordpress.com/

  • Dimitra May 31st, 2012 4:22 PM

    This is a really really awesome article. Thanks so much.

  • soretudaaa May 31st, 2012 4:27 PM

    The thing with me is, I’m extremely competitive with people I know, but then I always tend to get down when I see in the news that a 10 year old in, I don’t know, Germany, invents a new way to synthetize a very complex and hard to pronounce mollecule, or when a girl younger than me *coughTavicough* is featured in EVERY FASHION MAGAZINE EVER! or when I read that some famous person accomplished a million more things than me by the time they were my age… then I feel like a failure and like I’ve never done anything worthwhile in my life.
    And it sucks for a little while, but then I remember that even though I’m no award winning scientist or world famous fashion blogger, I am a perfectly happy smart person and I am where I’m supossed to be, even if it doesn’t exactly fit my CRAAAAZY expectations of where I should be by now.

    • O. June 1st, 2012 8:47 AM

      I’m like that all the time. I remember a couple of years back I absolutely HATED Tavi because she was younger than me and famous and successful. No other reason. Now after reading her blog and Rookie (obviously) she seems so down to earth and awesome and I’m like why didn’t I like her again?!

  • Tourdivoire May 31st, 2012 4:33 PM

    THANK YOU Amy Rose for being able to voice my exact problem!
    My friends get really scared whenever I suggest that we play board games. They give me that look, y’know, “Are you sure? Will you be able not to burst into tears if you don’t win?” when actually I CAN’T HELP IT, I just like to win!
    But it’s not always a problem: it’s gotten me to the best school in France, and once I got there and was with other students of my kind (aka crazy people) I was finally able to relax and enjoy watching them fight to get a Summa cum laude while I was involved in as many extra curricular activities as I could cram in a week.
    …Erm, now that I think of it, even that might be a sign of my being super competitive… sigh

    • bird May 31st, 2012 5:33 PM

      haha – i love the idea of your friends looking scared at the mention of board games!

    • ellthemighty May 31st, 2012 6:23 PM

      Oh God this is me too. I was taught Scrabble by my uncles and mother and if you think they give a 10-year-old any slack, think again. This has naturally resulted in me practically laughing in the face of friends who would play and be like, ‘What, I can’t look up a word in the dictionary to check the spelling BEFORE I play it? Why not??”

      (Clearly because that is AGAINST the RULES.)

      • Amy Rose May 31st, 2012 7:25 PM

        Ell, I feel you. I am a holy nightmare of a Scrabble opponent.

  • RockHatesMiriam May 31st, 2012 4:35 PM

    I’m the complete opposite! I’m so non competitive that I sometimes lack motivation to do things. But its great to hear things from the other perspective too :)

    http://www.pompandceremony.blogspot.com

  • decemberbaby May 31st, 2012 5:00 PM

    Great article!

    One of my favorite ways to get over an unhealthy sense of competition (in stuff other than school and musical competitions) is to remember that our standards for what is “good” or “attractive” or “successful” tend to be very arbitrary and usually are made up by some large evil industry. (Rookie has helped me to recognize in particular how arbitrary our ideas of “pretty” and “female” are.)

  • Jennifer T May 31st, 2012 5:20 PM

    Great post Amy Rose, as usual.

    Also, Emma D.–your work on this site is amazing. I didn’t comment at the time but your legs/global-heat-map collage for Danielle’s post on deferring sex was absolutely brilliant.

    I’m old so this site really isn’t meant for me, but I can’t help feeling that Rookie somehow gets it right, style and content-wise, in ways that The Awl and Hairpin etc. (sites for older ladies) don’t. I think a lot of it has to do with the limitation of three posts/day filtering out the BS. Quality over quantity. Good job, you guys.

    • Anaheed May 31st, 2012 5:25 PM

      Oh wow. This is SO NICE. Thank you, Jennifer!

  • bird May 31st, 2012 5:30 PM

    that’s really weird, this couldn’t have come at a better time. i just got highly commended in an essay competition and was beating myself up for not coming first… what is my problem?

  • taste test May 31st, 2012 6:06 PM

    good article! I used to be like that, but after a year or so in high school my competitiveness backfired into apathy. by that, I mean my attitude went from “I must be the best at everything!” to “I’ll never be the best at everything, so fuck it.” it was liberating because instead of trying to be the best I could just do what I wanted. it’s also caused problems, though, because it sort of turned me into a lazy, bitter slug when it comes to trying new things. (“I’ll never be good at sewing, so why bother learning?” thoughts like that.)

  • puffytoad May 31st, 2012 6:16 PM

    I’m the opposite! I’m not competitive at all. Well, I don’t like it when I lose but I just pretend I don’t care and the frustration fades within like 20 minutes anyway.

    Although one weird thing I was kind of competitive with was grades. In sixth grade some girl passed back my test which I got like a B- on and I thought she was looking at me like I was dumb. After that, I got straight As pretty much every semester even though I never had before! I think it was a weird thing about proving that I have some worth.

  • Naomi May 31st, 2012 6:27 PM

    urgh i feel like this a lot. i always focus on what i DON’T have rather than what i do. and then i focus on all the things OTHER people have and i don’t. but just because other people have stuff i don’t, doesn’t mean their lives are perfect!!
    anyway, i get it <3

  • Moxx May 31st, 2012 7:14 PM

    >which led me to realize that my social and romantic life didn’t have to be limited to a weird, backstabby psychodrama

    Dear hell I sure hope so.
    I’m pretty tired of having to decrypt comments like
    “Hey, you look VERY HEALTHY today. (???) Oh, I dont think I ever asked you: do you like to bake cakes a lot? (?????)”
    and having to decide whether it’s a compliment or a subtle insult or some mix of the two (horrifying aberrant thing that should not be when you are talking to a supposed friend and you are not on some sort of bon mot contest).

    • J May 31st, 2012 8:53 PM

      I hate comments like that. Especially when they are coming from family.

  • Susann May 31st, 2012 7:37 PM

    I’m sure anyone knows that feeling… but beating your own highscore is a must, isn’t it?

    Fashion in Pepperland

  • Eric Rangel 57 May 31st, 2012 7:44 PM

    Hello. You are not alone on this one.

  • GlitterKitty May 31st, 2012 7:45 PM

    Ahhh thank you Amy Rose for putting my feelings in writing. I am outrageously competitive in school. Once I got top of the class, I had to get to top of the year. If I get 100%, I have to do it again. It’s a vicious cycle. If I do really well, I start to think “well I did it once, obviously I can do it again”. Then when I don’t do as well, I freak out. Grades are like my Angry Birds score.

  • Cruicked May 31st, 2012 8:38 PM

    Power & Control, by Marina and the Diamonds, is so relevant to the theme this month and I meant to say something about it a couple of days ago and now it’s been reblogged on the rookie tumblr and that’s awesome. I’ve been a fan of Marina’s for years and her new album makes me think about rookie quite a bit. I think Sex Yeah, Teen Idle, Primadonna, Starring Role, Fear & Loathing, Hypocrates, and Bubblegum Bitch especially. Even though the album is about love mainly I think a lot of repeated themes within it have been written about here on rookie. Geez, maybe I should’ve written an article about it.

  • J May 31st, 2012 9:00 PM

    I hate being competitive like this because I hate the idea of competition in general, since someone always has to lose, but I can’t help it. *sigh* If I win at something, I feel really bad for everyone who didn’t, because failure (or perceived failure) sucks, but obviously I want to win anyway. I’m that really annoying girl who complains about the A- when others wish they had Cs, but what is even worse is when the people who get Cs turn out to be way better than you in other, possibly cooler areas of life (art, for instance), so then you have to compete against them in that respect as well….

    • Moxx May 31st, 2012 9:42 PM

      I think there are two different types of people who complain about getting A-:

      -The person who is always like “I didn’t study aaaaa I’m going to fail this test!!1!!2!” and then gets an A- and goes “CATASTROPHY this completely messes up my average oMg KiLl Me NoW lolzzzzlzlz”

      -The person who is legitimately extremely concerned about their grades and legitimately feels disappointed in themselves when they get an A-. They don’t usually brag about getting high grades and they don’t constantly make comments to everyone about how terrible they feel when they don’t meet their own expectations.

      I think in the end, to avoid being annoying to other people, you just need to take into consideration that some people have other goals, and expectations for themselves as well as areas of strength and weakness, and that they have their plane of grade expectations (PUN COMPLETELY UNINTENDED I swear) and you have yours and it’s how each person does based on their own plane that is most important to each of them. You dont have to feel bad for winning because from your point of view, people who got less than your view of a win are losing.
      There is no need to feel bad for feeling bad for getting an A-. Do not feel bad for adhering to your own standards.

  • moonchild May 31st, 2012 9:52 PM

    Ugh. I just had this experience AGAIN. So basically, I wrote a post on my blog before about feminism and stuff, and today I got a comment in which I was ATTACKED. I was called a “wanna-be feminist” and accused of having “oh so important and intelligent “feminist” views.” This person also said that my post “doesn’t make any of you look beautiful.” Meaning me and the people that commented on the post.

    Here’s the post: http://under-a-bridge.blogspot.com/2012/03/you-dont-know-youre-beautiful-that-what.html (it’s the commenter named acorn)

    This was very upsetting and, although I could have let it pass, I just felt SO COMPETITIVE AGAINST THIS PERSON! I felt like she (I’m guessing this was a girl?) was waging WAR! So I wrote practically an essay response which the person will probably never see.

    I don’t really know why I shared this experience with you… I guess just to display how my kind of competitiveness is so draining and tiring. I mean, I just reread the beginning of the comment that I am currently writing and I guess I wasn’t REALLY “attacked” (although the comment was preeeettty bad). I just feel this urge to HAVE THE LAST WORD and WIN THE ARGUMENT. I don’t know. Yeah.

    Gwen

    • Moxx May 31st, 2012 10:31 PM

      I always do this in arguments oo.
      But I guess it’s just that I feel it’s an important thing and I should argue my point.
      I try to step back and see if I’ve gone a bit overboard once in awhile, though.

      But I think you’re being fair here. I mean, -you- were attacked. You should have the chance to defend yourself.

      • Moxx May 31st, 2012 10:33 PM

        P.S. They wrote a lot too… So it is 2x ok.
        :))))))

  • chantal June 1st, 2012 12:57 AM

    I actually ended a friendship a long time ago because that friend was too competitive. The sad thing is, she was my best friend… but I felt better afterward. Everything was a competition, from grades to who could read faster. I tried to rekindle the friendship years later in high school but I realized that she saw getting a boyfriend first as a competition as well when she sabotaged my first relationship. Seeing it from the other side makes me a little sympathetic to her though.

  • Mags June 1st, 2012 1:52 AM

    I’m not very competitive at all, but I am a perfectionist, which is kind of the same thing in that you are competing with yourself and impossibility. It can be really poisonous, and a lot of times it holds you back from actually accomplishing something.

  • TinaBallerina June 1st, 2012 5:02 AM

    I’ve always been a bit competitive, especially in junior high. I got a good GPA and got into a really good high school (in Norway entrance to high schools are based on grades.) At this school, most of my classmates are better than me, especially at maths and science, which I suck at. I’m starting to feel the pressure. I can almost burst into tears all the time, since I’m worried my grades for this schoolyear will be horrible. I will get a 3 (C-?) in maths, because numbers freak me out. The worst thing is that I’m not getting a 6 (A+) in English, which has always been my best subject. The teachers are ruining my life, gaaah!!
    NIEFUDFBV. I’ve also started ballet (at 17), and I desperately want to be good, even though the teacher has gently told me I lack balance and grace. Uggghhh.

    • TheGreatandPowerfulRandini June 1st, 2012 3:38 PM

      OH MY GOD. You’re from Norway. I’ve never seen a Norwegian person on Rookie. What grade are you in? Are you doing “studiespesialiserende”?

    • TheGreatandPowerfulRandini June 5th, 2012 6:46 PM

      Also, your ballet teacher in Norway told you lack balance and grace? WTF. My teachers could never say that without getting complaints from parents or possibly fired. But then again I do public “Kulturskole”.

  • KayKay June 1st, 2012 11:50 AM

    This is totally me, I’m really horribly competitive.
    I get upset every time I play Monopoly, because 3/4 of the time I lose.
    I just always try to do the best I can, whether it’s grades or games or anything. That’s why I find P.E. so depressing, because I’m terribly uncoordinated and unathletic. Sports are the one thing I pretty much fail at, which is why I try to avoid it as much as possible, to not embarrass myself.
    I’m also a really sore loser, which I don’t want to be, but hey, at least I’m aware of it.
    Weirdly, I also feel the need to please or impress people, which, if you think about it, is ridiculous.

  • sylvie June 1st, 2012 1:10 PM

    Thanks Amy Rose this is soo good!!

    I get really angry in board games especially… and I’m like why does NO BODY UNDERSTAND??!

    I sometimes overwork, and I’m just mainly competitive to myself so thank you for inspiring me to relax more and be motivated!! Actually rookie has really helped me to just sit back and enjoy my thoughts and ideas and CHILL. thanks <3

  • TheGreatandPowerfulRandini June 1st, 2012 3:36 PM

    I loved the article! I am not too competitive towards myself, but I hate losing party games like Musical Chairs (Yes, really). No one knows of this because I never, EVER participate in competitive party games. It just, it’s not fun. I get stressed out, and I want to win that damn chocolate medal so bad.

  • eliselbv June 2nd, 2012 11:35 AM

    This article is REALLY one of the best! I am myself really competitive and I know really well the Angry Bird challenge! But I’m not competitive with other people, only with myself which for people who are not me (meaning everybody) can be very strange. I told my best friend that I wanted to have an A+ before the end of the year, she gazed at me and asked what was the point. I didn’t know and l lied just pretending I wanted to be the best while I just wanted to be better.

    http://www.iloveyourjokes.blosgspot.com

  • Stacey June 5th, 2012 11:11 AM

    I am crazy competitive too! Whenever I’m playing games with my friends, no matter what game it is, I’m always going crazy to win. I always have to win. I’m also a huge perfectionist when it comes to my life. I find it hard to take a moment and be proud of myself. Loved this!