We’ve all heard the saying that too much of a good thing isn’t necessarily beneficial. We also know that moderation and balance happen to be important for success and happiness in life. These rules hold valid when it comes to mental health.
It is common knowledge know that a bit of competition can push people out of their comfort zone and help them achieve. What happens, however, when that competition becomes excessive? Can it contribute to problems and if so – what issues will it unlock?
The Psychology of Competition
Let’s begin by examining the psychology of (healthy) competition.
For most people, being a bit competitive is fun. Needless to say, the enjoyment level is much higher for those who are winning.
Throughout history, humankind has been known to organise some kind of competition. This is how the Olympic Games were born. Modern football championships also stand as evidence of just how fun competition is considered to be in every culture across the world.
Competition is an essential force for moving forward, discovering new solutions for existing problems and boosting productivity.
Thus, competition can easily be leveraged for use in social causes and mutually-beneficial initiatives. Many charity events rely on the principle and the same applies to competitions launched by governments and municipalise to seek innovative projects and betterment for the good of everyone.
Competition, however, can also have a dark side. This dark side begins to rear its ugly head when competition is taken to an unhealthy level, especially for the young.
Excessive Competitiveness and Mental Health
Even when we’re trying to accomplish something individually, we may be comparing ourselves to people in our surroundings. The same mechanism is employed at work. People either consciously or sub-consciously will compare their accomplishments to those of peers.
Collaboration is a normal part of getting things done but eventually, collaboration can turn highly competitive. We’ve all experienced such dynamic relationship changes, especially when it comes to a joint project. University study groups, project teams assigned at the office – these can quickly contribute to a harshly competitive environment between the individuals involved.
As competition intensifies, people become more likely to undertake actions that will keep others from “winning.”
Researchers have found out that in instances when collaboration turns to competition, sabotage becomes much more likely. These are counterproductive, even harmful behaviours that affect both the perpetrator and the person being subjected to the unfair treatment.
The sense of extreme competition shifts the focus of individuals. Instead of struggling to achieve their own goal, they begin focusing on preventing others from accomplishing what they’re capable of.
Studies show that people who get close to achieving their goal will eventually slow down because they’re attempting to undermine a partner or a collaborator. Their effectiveness decreases and the amount of time required for project completion increases.
The Destructive Force That Ruins Mental Health
Our psychiatrist in Singapore can easily testify to the destructive force of unhealthy competition.
Researchers have found out that in today’s dynamic world, the number of competitions that every single individual participates in has increased significantly. Social media pressure adds to feelings of incompetence as it will always show someone who has a bigger house, a better job or a happier family.
Schools and workplaces also cultivate a spirit of competitiveness that can easily be taken to an extreme.
Unhealthy competition contributes to several very prominent negative mental health effects.
The first one has been mentioned already- negative thoughts and a focus shift. Instead of thinking about how they could accomplish their individual goals, many individuals will turn towards options for sabotaging the performance of others. Such negative thoughts could become all-consuming and obsessive.
Stress, jealousy and anxiety are also natural effects of excessive and unhealthy competitiveness.
Over-competition starts at a very early age. This is one of the reasons why so many Singaporean children feel anxious about going to school. They’re pushed by parents and they’re pushed by teachers. Whenever they fail to perform, these children begin dealing with anxiety and abnormal levels of stress that could eventually contribute to depression.
The problem continues in the workplace where the daily grind and the once again unreasonable expectations will often push workers beyond their limits.
Achievers are always favoured. Those who cannot accomplish the same are often left feeling inadequate. Media and online reports that put emphasis on atypical achievements further the problem, setting unrealistic expectations both among children and adults. If they fail measuring up to the ideal being shown, many of these individuals will begin experiencing feelings of inferiority and complete dissatisfaction with their performance and even their life.
What’s the Solution?
Healthy competition unlocks one’s potential. It focuses on individual capabilities and achievements.
The key here is to stop focusing on what others are doing or how they compare to you. A mental shift is required to eye your own goal and to keep your attention on its achievement.
If you cannot cope with the competition that’s typical for every single facet of life, you may want to consider getting professional assistance. This is especially true for the individuals who feel exceptionally stressed out, socially isolated and anxious. If an activity or a goal you previously enjoyed is currently leaving you in complete apathy, you may have to consciously seek change.
The Adelphi Psych Medicine Clinic professionals specialise in the treatment of depression and anxiety, regardless of the source.
An effective treatment for depression involves social help, psychotherapy and the selection of the right medications to help you cope with stress, anxiety and the negative feelings contributing to your condition. A holistic approach is very important rather than the isolation and identification of a single depression symptom. This is precisely the therapeutic approach chosen and perfected at a mental health clinic like Adelphi Psych Medicine Clinic.
Contact us today by filling our online form or give us a call at 62509833 during the clinic’s opening hours. We’ll be more than happy to introduce you to the therapeutic techniques that will help you keep stress, anxiety and negative feelings under control.
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