The Science of Stigma – Human Competition – PART 5

Some people are motivated by competition while others are not. We do not all feel the need to win (Robert E. Franken & Douglas J. Brown 1995). It is difficult to imagine a world where humans pursue a competitive advantage only to improve life for themselves and others.Whatever way you look at it, competition means someone must lose (Dr Sander van Der Linden 2015). The problem with the competitive nature of society today is that competition isn’t always met with cooperation. Modern day society is thwart with competition. Sports entertain the masses, political divides are competitive, economic competition means that markets are efficient and even human survival and finding love is competitive. Competition often gives us the incentive to perform better, satisfies the need to win and gives motivates people to put in greater effort in order to perform at a higher level (Robert E. Franken & Douglas J. Brown 1995).

In terms of mental health patients who take medications; which, I must say, are crucial to maintain stability and ensure patients remain out of hospital. However, they seem to be so strong that they come with unavoidable side effects that destabilise the patient’s competitiveness. Side effects include anxiety, weight gain, problems with attention, memory or speech, visual disturbances such as blurred vision, tremors and even, the one that I haven’t, obviously, yet experienced (and this is written on most of the leaflets for medications that treat mental health conditions) ‘sudden and immediate death’. Mental Health patients have less chance of competing successfully due to these side effects and often give up and accept a life that leaves them second best.

There is also the stigmatism that can give patients little opportunity to feel capable of competing. Patients are guilty of giving others’ opinions of themselves greater significance than what they think of themselves. They accept a worse version of themselves due to others influence, instead of deciding for themselves what they stand for. 

I don’t think anybody can say they don’t compete with themselves. I am talking about that inner critic I spoke about in my previous blog entry “The Science of Stigma – The Inner Critic – PART 4”. This inner voice competes alongside a more accepting and rewarding voice. You can choose either to feed your growling dog or your friendly, tail wagging, pleased to see you dog. They compete for your internal chatter and therefore your state of mind. It is important that we learn to manage this internal competition in order to gain a less dependent mind. I have said it before; we must take control of our own thoughts in order to fully establish a mind that is freer from the influence of others.

Gratitude is an extremely powerful concept that can help promote positive self-competition. There is always someone worse off than you and if you allow yourself the time to feel grateful for even the smallest things in life then you will nurture both competition and cooperation. Be consciously grateful when you pick your head off the pillow in the morning, when you eat your meals throughout the day, when you walk out your front door freely and unassisted and so on. It is also worth considering that the less we compare ourselves to others the more chance we will have to learn about ourselves.


Sander van Der Linden, “The Psychology of Competition: How competitions can lead you to do the right thing for the wrong reason” (Psychology Today, June 2015)

M. Huston, “Why we Compete: A Scientific Look at People’s Obsessions with Besting their Peers” (The Atlantic, October 2015)

R.E. Franken & D.J. Brown, “Why do people like competition? The motivation for winning, putting forth effort, improving one’s performance, performing well, being instrumental, and expressing forceful/aggressive behavior” (Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 19, Issue 2, August 1995, Pages 175-184)

Leave comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *.

%d bloggers like this: