Thank god I'm not raising bitches and hounds!'
That would be my response to people who say raising my children to practice 'co-operation, not competition', in a dog-eat-dog world will make them "losers" in the future.
In our household, my husband and I actively discourage any "competitive mentality" in our children. We instead promote and encourage what I call the three C's:
CO-OPERATION, COMPASSION and CREATIVITY
The non-competitive mentality is certainly not prevalent in our world today, and our family would be a definite minority.
Our current society has children pitted against one another from the time they enter school and for some children even before that. Our educational institutions are continually assessing our children and comparing them to each other. In classrooms and sports teams, around the world, children are frequently assessed according to age and notability. Somehow, a ten-year-old child that received a higher paper test score over another ten-year-old, at a single moment in time, is considered to be a "success" of the education system. That is blatantly disregarding research on multiple intelligences that debunk such modes of assessment. The child that wins every swimming race, for example, is considered a "success" of good parenting, coaching and long hours of training but the lack of a "childhood" is made irrelevant over, "structure and results." Perhaps more countries should follow the example of Finland, which rank among the highest for academic scores, despite valuing equality over excellence among children, all the while giving less homework and encouraging more creative play (you can read more about it here). Pasi Sahlberg, who wrote the book 'Finnish Lesson: What Can The World Learn From Educational Change in Finland' quotes Finnish writer named Samuli Paronen: "Real winners do not compete."
Hey, if you are a parent and you believe a little bit of competition harmed no one and thinks that it helps your children "progress and push themselves to the next level", by all means, be yourself! For my kids though, I will always advise them to run their race, enjoy every moment "for themselves" because life is way too short to be doing it for the attention of others. It simply boils down to intention; make it your intention to beat your own best and not the best of others.
I would say to my children if you love what you do and do it with consistency and commitment; success is a guarantee.
If you are losing or is unsuccessful and this makes you feel unsatisfied, angry or sad, you probably shouldn't be doing what you are doing, in the first place! Isn't the whole point of doing something for self-enjoyment and self-improvement, anyways? It sounds simple enough, but for many of us, fear keeps us in competition with others.
The momentary euphoria of beating someone or being better than someone else will last only as long as it takes you to become unhappy again. Ultimately, ones life's purpose should be to 'know thy self' and find happiness through other means other than winning and competition.
If my children say to me one day "Mother, you were wrong, you should have told me to compete, if I did I'd be a winner today, but instead, I'm just a loser, a nobody", I'd say to them "you are a loser compared to whom? There will always be someone who will be richer, prettier, more fashionable, fitter, faster, fulfilled, smarter and more successful than you, but there is only one universal equalizer: happiness. The more relevant question should be, why are you so unhappy?"
In my journey, the road has been long and winding coming to realize that the magic fix to finding happiness is co-operation, compassion and creativity, not through competition with others!
The following is a short bio, my journey away from competition to co-operation, contentment and finding true creativity! My Early Years: Time Spent in Nature
My early school years were very happy, and life flowed smoothly with little parental interference.I spent my days in nature, climbing trees, dancing, cycling and creating my play outdoors. Nobody drove me to soccer practice or dance lessons, and this was non-existent in the country areas that I grew up in Sri Lanka. I did not get a private school education; the public school education taught me the basics of reading, writing, maths, some music and dance. English was learnt at home, taught by my parents, who were fortunately educated in the English medium in Sri Lanka during the colonial era. I never had access to a fraction of what my children enjoy in terms of structured education. Great children's literature, such as those written by authors the likes of Roald Dahl and Frances Hodgson Burnett, I only came to know after reading it to my children thirty plus years later!
If I look at it from the perspective of where I am now, a good education is not a matter of when it happened but a matter of if you choose it.
Fortunately, I received my education in the best classroom ever, in NATURE and the only competency testing I received was when I was successfully able to avoid snakes, scorpions and spiders without harm and climbed barbed wire fences without wounds and scratches!
My Teen Years: Time in New Zealand
When I moved to New Zealand in the middle of my teen years, it was life-changing. I was able to learn more English, read its literature, learn and enjoy more structured sport and receive higher training in these areas. More opportunities became available to me, more easily; I embraced it fully and tried to do it to the best of my abilities. I took on leadership roles and very much enjoyed giving back to the community; I was in my element.
I went to university and did an undergraduate degree in History, took on three jobs. At the same time, I studied and travelled across the world to many countries, but competition or grasping for a vocation had still not entered my psyche.
I never felt that I was missing out in life or jeopardizing my future. I was doing what I loved (for the most part, except for some dull uni papers!) and received all that I needed to sustain my lifestyle at the time.
My Early Twenties: Time Lost in Translation
Suddenly, bored with academia, I yearned for more creativity in my life. To do a fine arts degree felt too indulgent at the time. 'What!? Do you want to do yet another useless degree?" I imagine that would have been the words of my S.E. Asian friends and family. So, I did a Bachelor of Arts in Fashion Technology instead, as it was called at the time because merely calling it 'Fashion Design' would make it sound way too practical and unacademic.
I won several national fashion competitions at the time, and winning was not hard. All I had to do was ignore my own inner aesthetic/creativity and design to please a panel of judges.
When I did step out of the bonds of convention, I was rejected, and that did not feel good; I did not enjoy the competition!
To become a good competitor in our society, you have to conform.
For several years, I was content to receive false security by the media attention for my work. All the while, I was lost in translation, not understanding the fashion world at all.
The fashion world did not sit right with my desire to be an individual, not to conform to expectations and not compete in a cut-throat industry. I felt myself getting further away from my true nature.
My Mid Twenties and Onward: Time in Spiritual Partnership
My husband, my soul mate, changed my life and was the catalyst that drove me to start up on a brand new journey: towards co-operation, compassion and TRUE creativity.
I had lost my desire to compete in the fashion industry despite my early success. I needed to find my true nature and raise my spirits once again. When my first child was born, I started teaching children art from home and so went some of the happiest years of my life. I started with four children, and it grew into almost 100 children that I regularly taught, by the time I shut shop when we needed to move due to my husbands work.
My husband helped me recognize cracks in my personality, such as the need to please others and receive their approval.
Due to this weakness, I mistook this happiness I received from teaching children art, as my calling to become a schoolroom teacher. I returned to university to do a Post Graduate Diploma in Teaching and sacrificed much time with my children & husband who needed me at the time.
I am a qualified teacher now. But I am not ever likely to work, strictly as a classroom teacher. I realized too late that the current educational institutions did not encourage creative freedom. Instead, it is stifled with a constant stream of meetings, assessments and reports. What I realized from this experience was that I was desperately seeking acceptance, approval and the recognition from others!
After years of bumbling through life, and only after 'interrupted plans' by the birth of two more beautiful children, I finally learnt what I needed to know:
I paint, I write, I design, I sew, I teach. I am a mother and a wife not for the approval, appreciation and applause of others. I am not doing these things to be like someone else or even to be better than another. I ONLY do it for the approval, appreciation and applause of one person: me, myself and I.
This understanding has freed me to live my life on my terms, to write my blog, sell my art and do many things that I would have usually been too afraid to try without fearing disapproval or rejection.
When you live your life in co-operation, compassion, creativity and not in competition, life unfolds in miraculous ways towards, ultimately, what we all desire: HAPPINESS!
Blessings to all of you and thank you for reading my longest post EVER! I hope that my story, my mistakes, my lessons will help you also in some way along your journey.
Leave me a comment; I love to hear from you too.