Competition ~ Healthy or Unhealthy?

by Kassandra Lamb

A writer acquaintance recently posted that she’d received 6 one or two-star reviews on the same day, and the wording of them sounded very similar to each other. She suspected some other writer had opened several bogus Amazon accounts for the sole purpose of trolling her and probably other writers as well. (Amazon apparently agreed because they investigated and took the reviews down.)

Yes, I’m a psychologist but there are some things I just don’t get about human beings. I may understand intellectually, but I really can’t relate. Why waste energy putting others down? How does that help you?

It takes a very insecure person to indulge in this kind of unhealthy competition, otherwise known as bullying.

bike race

(public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

Now don’t get me wrong, competition can be healthy. Some people find that competing inspires them to improve their performance more so than they would on their own. That’s great, as long as they don’t take it so seriously that they are devastated if they don’t come in first.

Nobody’s perfect, and no matter how good you are, somebody out there is probably better, or can do better on a particular day.

Also it’s healthy as long as you can be a good sport about losing. Comparing oneself to others in a negative way is not good for one’s self-esteem, to say the least.

                  Comparison is the thief of joy. ~ Teddy Roosevelt

And if one’s reaction to losing is to try to tear the winner down, again that’s called bullying. If you’re not that great at what you do, no amount of tearing down the competition (instead of beating them honestly) is going to change the outcome all that much for you. That energy is far better spent on improving your own abilities.

There are some people, like me, who naturally are not particularly competitive. Personally, I can’t get all that excited about writing contests. I’ve entered a few, if the entry fees were low. But often I forget to even go back and check if I’ve won anything.

There are only two things that matter to me regarding my writing quality (or the quality of anything I do):

1. Is it good enough to fulfill its purpose? (With regard to writing, is it giving my readers a satisfying reading experience?)

2. Am I getting better and better at it? (i.e., I’m competing with myself.)

And in the case of some endeavors, competition is pretty much unnecessary. Writing is one of them, in my opinion.


Bookstore in Istanbul (photo, public domain, Wikimedia)

Books are not like refrigerators or toasters. People don’t buy just one every few years. Readers buy books all the time. They are a consumable item, somewhere between food and clothing in the frequency of purchase (and to some readers, considered just as much a necessity).

Me, I’d much rather support and encourage other writers, while going for my “personal best” in my own writing.

How about you? Are you more the competitive type or are you more like me?

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  • Reply
    Mae Clair
    November 15, 2016 at 9:00 am

    How horrible about that poor author and the bogus reviews! I’m glad Amazon took them down. I don’t understand the benefit in downing other people/authors, either. You absolutely right in calling it bullying, for that’s exactly what it is.

    I do have a bit of a competitive streak in me, but (like you do) I measure myself against goals that I’ve set. How well have I done something? Could I have done it better? I think I’m always striving to improve and that’s were the competitive half comes in…I want to exceed my personal best.

    When it comes to other authors, support is what it’s all about! I’m so grateful for the support I receive from others and am happy to return the favor.

    Great post, Kassandra, and a good reminder that we’re all in this together!

    • Reply
      Kassandra Lamb
      November 15, 2016 at 11:09 am

      Didn’t notice any typos, Mae. And yes, I too am incredibly grateful for the support I get from other authors. I think those few writers who feel they need to pull others down are the exception, not the rule. Most authors are the best people on the planet!!

  • Reply
    Mae Clair
    November 15, 2016 at 9:01 am

    Please pardon my typos, LOL!

  • Reply
    shannon esposito
    November 16, 2016 at 5:06 pm

    Glad they took those reviews down! I feel like too much of an isolationist to be competitive. I don’t really keep track of what’s going on with other writers, I’m too busy trying to be the best version of myself. Though, reading a really well-written book is inspiring!

  • Reply
    Kassandra Lamb
    November 16, 2016 at 5:15 pm

    Yes! When I read a really good book, I think, “I want to write that well. I CAN write that well!” And I go to my keyboard and try to do just that.

    P.S. The writer involved in the troll incident found that the key was not to ASK that the reviews be taken down, but rather to “report” to Amazon that they looked suspicious and might be connected to bogus accounts. They were gone in two days.

  • Reply
    Karen McFarland
    November 16, 2016 at 6:43 pm

    “There are some people, like me, who naturally are not particularly competitive.” See, I don’t get all excited about writing competitions either Kassandra. Actually, one of the things I like about writIng is there doesn’t have to be competition. Writing is subjective, thus, it’s an open market with a chock full of diverse style, subjects and characters. I too, when I read a well written book, will be encouraged to amp up my writing skills. But I’m self motivated and persistent. There’s no need for me to compete with others. As I wrote in my post, it’s okay to see the beauty in the ordinary since the ordinary can strive for the extraordinary. For we are all extraordinary in our own unique way. Excellent post my friend! 🙂

  • Reply
    Kassandra Lamb
    November 16, 2016 at 7:48 pm

    Glad you liked it, Karen! I had been planning on writing on the topic anyway, but your post really inspired me.

    One of the things I love about writing is how supportive the writer community is. I can’t begin to comprehend why some see it as a competitive sport.

  • Reply
    Kirsten Weiss
    November 20, 2016 at 3:09 pm

    Authors are stronger when they work together!

    • Reply
      Kassandra Lamb
      November 20, 2016 at 10:24 pm


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