I used to be competitive when I was a child, and it really messed me up. I used to count the number of lines in the plays I was in, and I would measure my strength as an actress by how many I had. I (childishly, since I was a child) believed that the people who had fewer lines than I had were, clearly, not as good as I was. But the people who had more were, somehow, superior to me. I used to think that if I tried hard enough I too could get leading roles, but it didn't happen. By the time I made it to Junior High, I was comparatively short, not built like a dancer, and wasn't the leading-lady type. In spite of the fact that I knew every line and every song in every Jr. High School show, and I went to all the rehearsals, I spent my acting time in the offstage chorus.
There were already very good flutists in my school who played in the orchestras for the shows, so I remained in the chorus. I started playing the flute towards the end of seventh grade, and I decided to work really hard at it. After a few years of hyper-competitiveness, I eventually learned that the only real reward for hard work was in the work itself and in the ability to play. My competitive spirit worked its way out of my psyche, thank goodness, by the time I entered Juilliard (which, I suppose is the ultimate "lion's den" of musical competition). There was also no possible way I could compete with my classmates, so I simply didn't. I got myself onto a path of doing music for its own sake, and I believed that if I really worked hard enough, the quality of what I did would speak for itself.
Why is competition considered such a virtue? A quick Google search gleaned 61,300,000 websites on which to find competition quotes. Perhaps competition is an addiction like gambling. Perhaps the thrill of bettering another person gives a momentary sense of value to the winner. Perhaps that sense of defeat that surrounds the loser gives motivation to win next time. Perhaps it is exciting for kids to compete, but, in my eyes, using childish games as the major measure of accomplishment in the world, is simply childish. There should be room in the world for everyone who does anything of value, but that doesn't look like it is the case when I look at the view through my window, computer screen, and television.
Competition has made its way into everything: music (in all its forms), fashion, drama, art, architecture, cake decorating, cooking, raising animals, education, attractiveness, physical fitness in all its possible forms, and even blogging. Being successful in business doesn't necessarily mean that you have a good product or service to sell. It means that your goods and services are chosen over the goods and services of the competition, for reasons that do not necessarily have anything to do with the actual quality of what you do.
It seems that television has become one large game show, expanding the boundaries of competition to the ridiculous. It is hard to watch cable television during any given hour of the day and not find at least one show that involves some kind of a competition (in between the commercials, that is). Even the news, particularly the cable news, treats every stage of politics as a game (in between commercials, that is).
Sadly, it is those of us who choose not to compete that end up being relative non-participants in the continually competitive game of life.