When I was three years old I danced on a stage with a handful of girls all in leotards, and no one felt judged. Competition was not a part of our performance.
Fast forward a couple decades and you have a different story.
Given the competitive nature of our culture, finding a rewarding career can be challenging. One of the more important aspects of this challenge is cultivating a supportive attitude and celebrating the success of others. This is counterintuitive, but actually benefits you; your accomplishments are often the result of a team effort. But how do you develop this attitude?
An introspective look at our competitive nature is helpful.
Ask yourself these questions:
- What thoughts come to mind when others succeed?
- What story do you tell yourself?
- Do negative thoughts arise? If so, when do they come up, what are they?
- What past experiences encourage these negative thoughts?
When a colleague receives a promotion, it’s not uncommon to feel left behind, but that’s an unhelpful and possibly distorted narrative. You were hoping for that role, that opportunity, or that promotion, but that is not a measure of your self-worth: don’t let it define you.
Over-sharing can lead to unhealthy comparison and competition.
Professional achievement and success is often addicting. Social media is very helpful when promoting your business or brand, as it allows your voice to be heard. However, over-sharing can lead to unhealthy comparison and competition. Healthy self-worth is anchored in the belief that you are not simply what you do professionally but who you are as a person. Learning how to “be” in this dynamic culture is essential for a grounded sense of self-worth. Being, in this context, involves the wellbeing of others.
The mind is a fabulous organ! Neuroplasticity refers to the ability of the brain to reprogram itself. The brain changes both physically and functionally throughout our lives. The influence of emotions, thinking, behavior, and cultural environment contribute to these changes. Embracing this enhances our lives freeing us up to grow internally and professionally.
Professional achievement and success is often addicting.
We can address the negative narratives in at least three ways:
Be aware of negative thinking and call it what it is: negative.
Alter the negative thought to a more realistic one. For example, your friend received the promotion you wanted. Thinking that the achievement makes them more valuable than you is a part of that false narrative. A healthier thought may be that your friend is more suited for the position and your role is to be supportive.
Use meditation be fully present and aware. This is helpful in keeping you from reacting to negative thoughts. I have found this practice to be helpful in grounding and centering on what really matters. Apps like The Mediation Studio and Breathe can be extremely helpful in learning the art of meditation.
Finally here’s the way my own therapist put it: “It’s not always about you.” Seriously, my therapist said this to me and my jaw dropped, a light went on, and I marveled at the profound simplicity of it. I quickly came to understand that this truth is an essential part of being supportive of others while being okay with myself. This brings me back to that line of dancing 3-year-olds. Bring that confidence up to date and integrate it into professional life.
As a marriage and family therapist, my view on staying competitive in your industry involves first uncovering the negative and underlying emotions we feel when someone else succeeds. I believe when we understand our emotions, accept who we are, and celebrate with others then we will thrive in life and work.