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  • Writer's pictureLynn Armsby

Competitiveness: A Personality Trait?

Updated: Jul 20, 2019

Competitiveness pervades all our lives in many different areas. Often described as a personality trait, competitiveness may be more selective rather than being an integral part of one’s personality. For example a person might be very competitive, almost driven, in a dance competition but not competitive at all when interacting with a work rival or acquaintance. Some scholars see competitiveness as a biological trait displayed as a tool for survival.

Competitiveness may be perceived as a very good thing, giving motivation to dancers to do better, to be fitter and to work harder. This is both an extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. “If I win I will get the trophy, the title, the reward, which is seen by all” and also “if I win I will have achieved my personal reward for all the work I committed myself to and feel good about myself”.

Often however, competitiveness can be seen as a cover for poor self esteem. People with low self esteem work very hard to prove that they are winners because deep down they don’t feel like winners but losers. This competitiveness comes from a deep sense of insecurity. These competitors tend to be competitive in many areas of their lives and see competition from a perspective of beating others rather than winning to show their own progress. People with low self esteem cannot countenance losing, as it plays into their own sense of worth as a person (not their skill or ability as a dancer).

So how competitive are you? Does your competitiveness affect your life positively or negatively? Have you ever inflated facts to appear that you are doing better than others? What would this say about you and how does this inflation of the facts affect others? Have you achieved something you are very proud of as a result of your competitiveness?

Competitiveness, it would appear is a double-edged sword: A force to drive you on to be the best that you can be, or a toxin which threatens our humanity and compassion.

At this stage in my life I recognise that I am fairly competitive. I would say that my personal competitiveness drives me to read heavily about the subjects that interest me and to attend continuing professional development at every opportunity. Competitiveness in this sense is motivating. My friends will tell you that if I am interested in a subject I am completely single minded almost driven. My Bridge is definitely improving!

Conversely, I also recognise that my husband is not competitive at all which is excellent, as when the family get together and play board games and cards there is always someone who never minds being the first to be out and will make the Gin and Tonics!

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