Compete to Exist: it’s okay to want to win


Sometimes, as an adult, we lose ways to channel and release our energy.

I always had sports. Always. If I had a bad day, one round of batting practice was all I needed to reshape my mood. Heck, on good days, there was nothing like winning the Tee Game before heading home; it affirmed my place in the world, even if just for an evening.

Now, I don’t have that thing I relied on for so long. Exercising, while important, is not the same as competing.

It’s important for me to find ways to compete. Otherwise, I’m denying myself a part of who I am. I try to find it in impacting—though small—doses. My goal is to compete against myself: at work, during a workout, and achieving my goals, I aim to be better than I was yesterday. In the back of my mind, I ask if I can be more creative, productive, or hard-working than the day before.

And sometimes, I ask my husband to play a game of rummy. That usually does the trick, too.

Compete to Exist

Originally posted in the October 2015 edition of the CU Denver Advocate.

If this world is classified between the competitive and the passive, I know exactly where I stand. I hate to lose. However, not a lot of people around me know how much I care, and how much I truly want to be the victor. Make no mistake, I thrive off my desire to compete.

Some people are born with an instinct to win and take no prisoners. That wasn’t my situation. I was like many in my generation—socialized to think that participation is the most important goal, and that effort is what earns a trophy. In fact, all of my little league uniforms said “we all win” in big block letters on the back, in the place of last names.

As I got older, I became conflicted. I was practically trained to be the first person to speak up after a terrible loss—to say hey, it’s okay, at least we had fun.

But was it fun?

I saw coaches get fired for having unsuccessful seasons. There were parents yelling at their children for not taking things seriously enough. Sometimes I put in loads of effort without much recognition. We all played, but we also cried a lot.

I’ve always been afraid that if I acted like I wanted to win, I’d be considered an asshole. People would think of me as the person who takes things—like high school sports—too seriously. I feared that I’d grow into the aunt at Thanksgiving who didn’t know how to lose at scrabble and makes the whole family feel uncomfortable.

Since then, I’ve discovered that there’s a difference between cockiness and confidence.

Embrace the Difference

Here’s the deal: it’s okay to care if you win or you lose. It’s okay to want to win, because you know you deserve it. You put the time in, and the work. Wanting to win is guilt-free when you accept that you have the capabilities to succeed. The tricky part is losing with grace, even when the “W” meant everything.

Don’t be afraid to reveal that competitive side. Push yourself in the classroom, in the workplace, and on the court. Just remember that winning feels best when it’s earned, and deserved. And nobody likes a sore loser.

26 thoughts on “Compete to Exist: it’s okay to want to win

  1. I’ve never been sporty, i admire it, I think it’s good for people generally! I definitely agree that this attitude applies in so many areas. I totally agree,concur that there is nothing wrong with being determined, determination is an important trait, and learning how to experience losing or failing with grace and good humour is equally important.

    1. I like thinking about competition in terms of determination! I think that it widens the conversation a little bit, and gives access to more people; thank you for your insight! Wanting to excel and push yourself extends far beyond sports and physical activity, as well as failure and disappointment. Thanks for reading!

  2. I 100% agree with you, there’s nothing better than healthy competition. Congrats on all your sports achievements! I’m partial to a game of rummy and there’s nothing better than beating the family in scored games, haha!

    1. Thank you! Most of these achievements were long ago, but I feel like many of the principals have stayed with me. Haha, I absolutely love beating my husband at just about any game—I can’t help it! Thank you for reading and commenting. 🙂

  3. I’m so glad someone wrote this! I have always felt this on the inside and have been made to feel that I’m being a poor sport for being upset about losses and failures, but it’s good to push forward and work towards it next time. Thank you for writing this!

    1. I think it’s so interesting to think about; there’s a real pressure between winning and also feeling like it’s bad to care—something has never quite added up fully. As long as it’s not overdone, I think that taking pride in what you do and investing in your success can’t hurt. Thank you for reading and giving your feedback!

  4. I have to agree with you that competition is important. I’m actually one of those who feels like not everyone deserves a trophy. There has to be a clear winner and looser, otherwise kids are not going to learn to challenge themselves. I see it in my daughter’s softball, where everyone gets a medal, and many of the kids don’t really care if they win games or not. Good post!

    1. I think that’s very interesting when people don’t try because they’ll still get a prize! Personally, other things always motivated me, like not disappointing my teammates or coaches. Maybe at some point the priorities of competition get lost. Thank you very much for reading and commenting!

  5. Hey, well done on all your achievements. I’ve never really been good at sports but I do love to play rummy, I become very competitive playing that I drive my partner mad. 😂

    1. Thanks! It was years ago, so many of those accomplishments are long gone. But when I play rummy or something similar, it all comes rushing back! Haha, who doesn’t love a rousing game?! Thanks for reading!

  6. This is actually a good read, I love winning but I’m quite competitive and when I play sports everyone’s as competitive as each other so we do get some sore losers sometimes but everyone’s generally fine because they know whoever won deserved it.
    -Kyra ||

  7. I agree and I think it’s a good quality to want to win. It means you have ambition and drive to be the best version of yourself. It makes you want to improve. Love this post xx

  8. this was so interesting to read, I can honestly relate to this so much. I’m quite a competitive person, especially when it comes to sports. I get what you mean about being worried that people might think you take things too seriously if you really wanted to win, or be the best at something more ‘trivial’ I guess. I’ve definitely downplayed how much I cared about winning and doing my best at a particular thing (usually a sport) for this reason, which is kinda sad! Anyway, this post was really eye opening, thank you for sharing!!

    1. Thanks, Molly! I have come to realize that there is a real balance, and it can be tough to achieve while staying true to yourself and outside expectations. Thank you so much for reading and taking the time to comment!

  9. Hi, Very Good Article. I really appreciate it. Well researched article. Now you got one regular visitor to your website for new topics. Keep up the Good Work Thanks for always sharing. Nicole Graham

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