I would like for me to stop comparing myself to others. In a way I want to learn to accept myself the way I am. But then again, sometimes I see what others have accomplished and I think “I can do that too, can’t I?”. And all of a sudden comparison is part of inspiration, even learning. Developing a skill most often has an initial mimicing phase, it may be short however. if you are or become what we call a “genius” that phase will be largely eclipsed by the phase where you seem to be channeling new insights or techniques from the gods. Still most of us learn our first language by mimicing, and comparison is a key component in mimicing.
So what about comparing and competition? Isn’t it a key part of our capitalistic market system thingamajig ? (I only added that last word to be clear about how little I know about this area) Well I guess so. Or perhaps it’s just important to us and we incorporate it in whatever system.
We did a small study this spring on workplace gender stereotypes. The whole thing started with an article on an American study in which they found that women were punished for becoming mothers while men were not. Mothers were considered less competent and more compassionate. Of course we could not replicate their results in Sweden, that seems reasonable, just look at these photos. Still we looked closer at the theory behind the original study. The theory was that we sort people into two bins: farmer or foe. A farmer is kind & stupid, a foe is smart & evil. Anyone with whom we compete for food, fame or Facebook likes, is a foe, and the way these scientists put it, basically anyone who is on par with you status wise, is a competitor (and foe). So a woman without kids is a foe. But when she becomes a mother she becomes a farmer, a kind little fool who does not pose a threat. The interesting thing here is that the competitive mindset fuels misiogynistic discrimination. At least that’s what I think, if you are less focused on competing with others, it’s easier to see that someone can be as smart as you (and even smarter) but still be kind.
So this free market thingamajig, yeah it’s nice, I like it. Of course you can discuss if/when/by whom it should be limited but still, as the main rule I buy it. But there’s one thing that i find interesting. In Sweden it seems like there are two words for competition: “konkurrens” and “tävling”. In a business context there is a clear distinction between the two. “Konkurrens” is used for market situations, you could call it market-competitive and “tävling” is used to get connotations from sports, a kind of sports-competitive. If competing isn’t as important in Sweden as in the anglosphere, why two words? Perhaps because by using these two words we can avoid the focus on competition to leak into adjecent areas. An example: In the US of A i guess one could say “Our offer must be competitive, we all must have a competitive mindset”. But in Sweden that doesn’t work. “Our offer must be market-competitive” is ok. But you wouldn’t say “market-competitive” about employee mindset. You could use sports-competitive, but for some workplaces It would be a little too stark, it would sound like the U.S. Boss saying “we must all focus on competing”. So in many cases in Sweden, you would just stop after having a market-competitive offer. I find that wholesome. In the terms of psychology you stay focused on the mastery (solid offer) instead of focusing on the competition. But you could also add the sports-competitive mindset, some people like that, we are not all alike in this area. In some areas I love competing, but in general, I see life as a lesson of practice, not a constant competition.