Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Got Cooperation?

I was taught to be my own person. I can’t think of one time that my mother ever held me up for comparison against someone else. Even when she implied that I should or should not be doing something, her reasoning never held reference to what anybody else was doing. I can’t think of a time when she did this to herself, either, although plenty of people tried to do it to her.
I think I’m happier because I wasn’t taught to compete. It seems to me that women with sisters and men with brothers have a leg up on others in this regard; we learn to manage same-gender competition earlier in life through sibling rivalry. Of course, a lot of people never get beyond that.
Usually, I don’t notice right away when someone has positioned themselves as my rival. I don’t understand people who are hypercompetitive; I’m satisfied with this lack of understanding, too.
At the same time, I really enjoy intentional, organized competition. I have no shame with games and sports and talk a lot of smack with or without the talent to back it up. I think this is endlessly fun, even when I lose. Maybe I get this from my grandmother’s generation? My mom says she doesn’t care for card games because of the die-hard competitiveness of the generation who taught her to play. She’s right, those people were relentless. (I say this with admiration.)
But, off the field or table, competition damages a lot of relationships. It’s sad to watch what happens to individuals who compete without limits. I used to work for a really nice man who evolved into an untrustworthy boor when he “rose to the occasion” with a newcomer to our organization. How can you be happy when you constantly have to prove to yourself that you’re the smartest, the fastest, the cutest, the highest-paid, the endless list of other superlative modifiers? Are you going to have them engraved on your tombstone?
What does this to people? Didn’t they get what they needed as a child? Did that third grade incident with the playground bully leave them wounded? Is this mentality born or created?
The oddest thing about hypercompetitive sorts is the way they underestimate others. When that happens and you inevitably breach their low expectations, they start to resent you. You’re not fitting into the compartment they’ve created for you. That’s when envy pops up.
The older I get, the more amazed I am by the number of people who are motivated by and make decisions based on envy. wtf? What has that ever done for anyone? I once had a lady tell me that she was jealous because I was willing to wear clothes that hadn’t been ironed! (Ok, she was aware of how silly that was, so her envy was managed, but too funny not to share!)
What I have learned is that when people aren’t good at something, it’s usually because they don’t like it. And when they are good, it’s because they do. It really doesn’t have anything to do with ability; it’s all about preferences. So, what’s with the competition?
Yet, I trust the philosophy of duality. I don’t think that we have strengths and weaknesses; we just have traits. In one circumstance, a trait may be advantageous to us, while in another situation, it may serve us poorly. Without uber-competitive people, there would be no Olympics.
I love to watch Yevgeny skate, but I’d bet that he doesn’t cooperate with others well.
Thanks, Mom, for not doing that to me!

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