If I had a dime for every time someone told me that I had to be the best, I’d be wealthy by now. We are often told that being competitive is the only way we’ll succeed in life, but do people ever consider what healthy competition is, or feel the need to slow down when it gets harmful? “Children may feel like something is wrong with them when they don’t, for example, pass exams at top of the class. But do they look at failure as a menace or an opportunity to learn?” Sandra Umuhoza, a Kigali resident, wonders. Umuhoza says she grew up in an environment where competition to be the best was tight. “My report card had to show I was number one and that was all. I maintained this till I completed O-level, and by that time, I was doing physics, chemistry and biology. It was tough to keep that position.” Aline Gatesi says that it was hard to accept that the grades she got, even though she wasn’t in first position, were still good. “My esteem dropped significantly because I let grades define me.” Gatesi says that a therapist helped her realise that it wasn’t about grades, or even settling for less, rather, healthy competition. Competition is unhealthy when it presupposes that there’s only a limited amount of success or achievement available out there in the world. In that way, it’s based on scarcity and fear rather than abundance, the article “Unhealthy and Healthy Competition – What’s the Difference?” states. When competition is motivated by a desire to get attention and validation from others, it’s ultimately coming from a place of insecurity and self-doubt. This weaker foundation negatively impacts one’s ability to perform and compete at the height of their potential. At the same time, it’s so narrowly self-focused that it forgets about the broader team or community, the article says. “I lived a very competitive life, at school, church, even at home. It was too much pressure since my parents think of me as the perfect daughter,” Gatesi says. In 2019 when Gatesi signed up for a beauty contest and didn’t go through, it took time to recover. “But I now realise that I don’t need to compare myself to others to understand how good I am. I think healthy competition is when you work on being better and not how others will see or think of you if you fail.” “Anyone in charge of raising kids should discuss with them ways to improve their performance, instead of dictating levels of excellence,” says Uzziel Manirareba, a psychologist. Manirareba says the best way is to acknowledge what a child is good at, and discuss ways to improve where they are not strong. This way, a child can set healthy goals to improve in whatever areas they are weak. He says that in every competition, it is best to make sure you do not create frustration. Instead, motivate yourself in a positive way. Unhealthy competition puts a disproportional amount of emphasis on the outcome, rather than valuing the process or the journey involved in getting there. And when the outcome becomes the sole focus, it can promote the idea that a person or team has to do “whatever it takes” in order to succeed. This mentality can then lead to all sorts of bad decisions and unethical practices, the aforementioned article notes.