Why We Need To Stop Competing With Others For Success

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For most of us, life is all about competing with each other, in various walks of life, and to essentially emerge victorious. One must be good in studies to start with, then get admission in a socially admired course like medicine, engineering or MBA, score a better package than your neighboring rival, have more followers on social media and tick more things off your bucket list than all your peers.

How many of us take up a career or a job because it makes us happy, rather than because it brings us a bigger paycheck?

We have reduced activities like travelling, partying, and even working out, which were supposed to be either recreational or to enhance fitness to a parameter in the competition of life. But with every achievement in life that we unlock, we end up losing the joy it should have brought us. So one needs to ask, is competing with others the only way to be successful? Moreover, is success the only thing one needs to be aiming for in life?


  • For most of us, life is nothing but a series of competitions.
  • We grow up competing with peers in studies, choice of career, better packages and even in setting life goals.
  • Even recreational activities like travelling and reading, and health have been reduced to peer rivalries.
  • This approach may bring us success, but does it bring us joy? Does success even matter in the long run if it isn’t fulfilling?

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Like most people, I belong to an average middle class Indian family, however, my parents never forced me to compete with others. But such was the social atmosphere around me, that I took it upon myself match my peers. As I grew up, marks and ranks in class forged and broke friendships. I opted for science as my main subject after high school, and went on to pursue medicine, because a good student was supposed to either become a doctor or an engineer in those days. Well in small towns like the one from where I come from, all children are still expected to do that. Besides, I had a report card which agreed with my choice. You see in our society, it makes more sense to choose a subject to pursue after high school based on your marks, than your interest. So it is your marks that decide what your interest or strength should be, not you.

Is competing with others the only way to be successful? Moreover, is success the only thing one needs to be aiming for in life?

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And here I am today, some seventeen years after completing my high school, with a BDS degree on my back, only to give it all up, to pursue writing full time. Sometime after completing my degree, I realised that practicing dentistry simply didn’t make me happy. Writing did. And while it baffled many people around me, I chose to give up a career I had spent years and a lot of money chasing. A bad example as many parents would go on to label me. But let me tell you, I know I am much happier today with my career, than I would have ever been running in the rat race I had put myself in. Luckily, I had the support of my family, in form of parents and a partner who understood. Not many have that. But even in aspects that they do have a say, many people chose to compete with others, than life a life on terms that bring them stability and happiness. They have to run in the rat race of life day in day out, matching paychecks with friends, travelling, partying, even reading in search of social media or real-life validation.

The combined effect of this real and virtual tendency to compete may be one of the reasons why India ranks 140th in the 2019 World Happiness Report.

There is little joy in whatever we do today because it is more about earning bragging rights than feeling accomplished. With every competition that we win, another one presents itself to us, and the rat race to win continues. How many of us can do no-social media travelling for instance, where we click a few pictures, but stay away from posting anything about our travels both during and after our trip? How many of us take up a career or a job because it makes us happy, rather than because it brings us a bigger paycheck? The need to win is so coded in our brains today, that it has become a habit for many of us to compete. We need to feel the rush it brings us.

This competitiveness may be costing us our mental health. An estimated 57 million people are affected by depression in our country, says a WHO report. So we need to ask ourselves, that despite impressive itineraries, paychecks, and social media lives, why are we so unhappy? Have we got it all wrong? Is it time to prioritise happiness over one-upping each other? Unless we manage to reclaim our lives from the rivalries we have put ourselves in, these figures will continue to get worse.

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Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are author’s own.