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I have been dating an introverted man who I am very in love with for almost 2 years.  Reading your posts have helped me to be more supportive and understanding to him especially during the times when he needs space.  I just wanted to thank you for your weekly posts and let you know how helpful they are for someone who is in a relationship with an introvert. C.M. on space2live
C.M.
THANK YOU….. you just summed up my swirling thoughts into something i can read with out everything else in my head meshing with it. I finally feel like i can explain what happens within without getting distracted. I’m an Introvert with ADD and it makes it so hard to explain quite what im feeling sometimes. — M.G. on space2live
M.G.

“I was struggling with my daughter (16 at the time) and our constant fighting. You said something to me that changed my life! You were speaking about your own situation and you said to me “my child could not handle my emotions”. This was a HUGE “lightbulb moment” for me and it forever changed the way I dealt with my emotions when I was around my daughter!

I am happy to say that things have never been better between my soon to be 18 year old daughter and myself! I honestly never thought we would…

Mom M
That courage and dedication you so generously share with the world, has inspired me to push myself a little harder, persevere at each task a little longer, dig a little bit deeper to where the answers just “feel” right to both my humanity AND my spirit. Your insights have reinforced my direction and given me additional tools that help me clear my path. I’m wired into my creativity as never before and the new music is pouring out of me faster than I can record and produce it; this is the Un…
Gary
Brenda has truly opened up a space for introverted types on the ‘net, and her self-revelations are always inspiring. Her voice is one I always look forward to. She is one of the writers that actually played a part in my return to writing.  — S.E. of Sunflower Solace Farms
S.E. of Sunflower Solace Farms
For the first time in my life I could truly explain, through your words the way in which I experience life and myself. Brenda… It all fell into place. I had found myself and had such a moment of clarity. It felt like such a big weight was lifted off of my shoulders. Finally I felt like it was ok to be me. I was not the only one. I had found people and a little space where I fit in. … I was at work and crying on the inside. Emotions ran wild inside me. I was ecstatic, sad, confused, motivated, i…
Niko
This is me. This is me from the day I was born. For so long I felt misunderstood and rejected, even by the people closest to me, because they could never understand my need for solitude, and I had no idea how to explain it to them. Even now that I know more about Introversion and have a more informed understanding of my hard-wired need for solitude, it’s still very difficult sometimes to help my loved ones understand this profound craving for time and space all to myself. This is one of the best…
Sharon
Thank you for all the words. You’ve created the magic drug I’ve been looking for all my life. Your blog has transformed my life, and I feel like I am on the brink of a most satisfying fulfilling journey…You’ve made me see everything in a new light. I now feel calmer, able to care better for my toddler, less hateful of people around, and hopeful for my future. I am not so afraid for our marriage anymore. — Shilpa CB
Shilpa CB
You’re so honest in your writing. It’s bold. It’s frank. It’s wonderful. I could definitely see the work you are doing here as a useful book. It could save/make a lot of relationships! — Jimmi Langemo
Jimmi Langemo
your depth of understanding, and talent at sharing it amaze me. Speechless… and for your sharing of it.. Thank you… deeply. *sigh, its like coming back into my body through acceptance….. Sherrie on space2live
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I’d Rather Not Compete With You:For Introverts or Anyone Who Prefers Excellence Over Dominance

Not a FIGHTER.

Be my friend, lover or family member but please don’t be my competitor.  I will run from you if I feel you are in any way interested in one-upping me.  This is the ultimate turn off for me.  I will not relax in your presence.  I understand that competition is invigorating and natural for many but for me it is a challenge that invites critical and judgmental thinking.  It squeezes out being and focuses on doing. Intellectually it emphasizes facts and downplays questions and wonder.

Competition pushes me outside of my introverted comfort zone.

Competition Within a Relationship

Ironically, I married one of the most competitive people in the world. It was incredible at first because he could compete in intellectual arenas where I stood tongue-tied, desperately trying to formulate perfect answers. He liked going into battle and I liked encouraging and advising him from the sidelines. Then somewhere along the line the tables turned.  It felt like he was competing with me on everything from cooking to parenting (even if his intentions were only to join me in the activity). I wanted him to be with me (non-competitively) or let me be. Feeling constantly challenged I put up my guard. I closed off.

I never would have linked physical affection with competition but I’ve noticed as I have rejoined the world of relationships that I am surprisingly open to touch.  I never realized I was missing it.  I believe the reason for the openness is that I am relaxed and don’t feel I am competing with my companion. There is an availability and vulnerability that did not exist in my marriage.  I am not giving in, just giving.  There is an equilibrium. Acceptance. We are equally in charge of our experience.  For me, there’s a hunger and a gentleness but no fear of losing myself to another’s will.  No one is better.  We just are.

Competing with Family Members

As a young person, I deliberately stayed out of spaces my sister dominated.  I did not want to compete.  I wanted to be different, not better or worse. She pursued traditional athletics.  I focused on pom-pom and cheerleading.  She was Daddy’s girl.  I was Mom’s.  Looking back, I see how this subconscious maneuvering shaped much of my future.  I made decisions based on avoiding confrontation with aggressive people and I chose an aggressive teammate ( my husband) to shield me from the rest of the competitive world.

Sibling rivalry – the ultimate competition.  I see my kids scramble among themselves to gain my attention.  Look at me!  Look at me!  It’s draining choosing who to listen to.  Who to praise.  Who to ask to remain silent while the other speaks.  I believe they feel like they lose something vital if I grant attention to something or someone other than each of them.  It’s like a thousand small defeats every day. I’d much prefer to work all together or work one on one. The only way I have found to handle the rivalry (and yes, I know it is common and can even help children grow into stronger people) is to celebrate each of their strengths (granted it took me a while to figure those out) and to emphasize that each of them is different not better.

Strive for Excellence Not Dominance

Why is it difficult to rest in being?  To be content with your abilities without having to smash someone else?

I am all for challenging myself. I will enter writing contests or 5K races but they are for my own improvement and enjoyment. Sure, I’d like to win but I have no agenda for defeating anonymous competitors.

I have no desire to beat anyone, only to learn and accomplish.

Competition Introvert Style

According to Nancy Ancowitz, author of Self-Promotion for Introverts, introverts are often perfectionists. They strive for excellence not dominance. We tend to go deep into a problem, subject or activity.  We enjoy spending time (alone) perfecting a strategy, an ability or a product. Feedback is essential but intellectual jousting is not. The activity itself is the reward, not winning.

Similarly, in Ancowitz’s Psychology Today article, How to Compete with Your Frenemies, she says introverts are just as competitive as extroverts except we go about it differently.  We spend more time perfecting our craft or competing collaboratively – working toward win-win results. In her book, Collaborative Competition, former Goldman Sachs leader, Kathryn Mayer, contends that competition is an opportunity – a chance to learn, evolve and excel. I would argue that most introverts prefer to see competition in that light.

Are you competitive? If not, why? If so, how do you compete? Intellectually? Collaboratively? Against yourself? Like a warrior? 

Related Articles:

Introverts: Manage Your Perfectionism and Reduce Your Agita! (Self-Promotion for Introverts)

Introverted Not Incompetent:Validating Softer Life Skills (space2live)

Working Through Conflict with Passion and Compassion (space2live)

Self-Actualization and the Suburban Mother (space2live)

There’s Nothing Wrong With You.  You’re an Introvert. (space2live)

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33 Comments

  1. daydreamer82 December 29, 2014 at 1:25 pm - Reply

    I was just about to vent on this topic.This explains so much for me. Thanks for sharing!

  2. […] I’d Rather Not Compete With You:For Introverts or Anyone Who Prefers Excellence Over Dominance […]

  3. […] I’d Rather Not Compete With You:For Introverts or Anyone Who Prefers Excellence Over Dominance […]

  4. […] I’d Rather Not Compete With You:For Introverts or Anyone Who Prefers Excellence Over Dominance […]

  5. […] I’d Rather Not Compete With You:For Introverts or Anyone Who Prefers Excellence Over Dominance […]

  6. Happy August 10, 2014 at 11:24 pm - Reply

    This really explained the situation I have been going through for a while, but with a good friend. I never really understand the feelings I had, but now I completely understand & am feeling a lot better about myself! Thank you much!

  7. bree April 2, 2014 at 3:59 pm - Reply

    very good article, gave me great insight on situations i did not understand

  8. […] I’d Rather Not Compete With You:For Introverts or Anyone Who Prefers Excellence Over Dominance […]

  9. […] I’d Rather Not Compete With You:For Introverts or Anyone Who Prefers Excellence Over Dominance […]

  10. November October 31, 2013 at 7:49 am - Reply

    I am an introvert, but also a one-upper…..for two reasons.
    I tend to think that my stories or contributions to the conversation can HELP the other person…offer an alternative viewpoint, give advice, give a product recommendation, etc. It’s because I care and I get a LOT out of answering questions, knowing helpful tid-bits; it’s also part of my job (which also gives me satisfaction for the same reason). I like knowing things other people don’t know.
    The other reason is because I AM competitive in the sense that I DO want to feel as if I’m superior to others….it’s a self-esteem thing. It makes me feel good to know that I’m better at something than you are. But mostly I do it for the first reason.

    I’m also an only child and never had to compete with anyone for anything. Rather, I’m extremely giving. My mother once expressed to me that maybe I’m not overly successful (read: I’m not a go-getter) in life because I didn’t have to fight for anything. I’m more content to stick with my comfort zone.

    • Brenda Knowles October 31, 2013 at 12:23 pm - Reply

      I think the first part of your answer constitutes giving and helping more than competing. I bet you do it generously rather than in a show-off way. I like to do those things too.

      I think a lot of people need to feel superior in order to protect their self-esteem. You’re certainly not alone there. Having a competitive drive can be healthy. I personally have a hard time with it which could be holding me back in some areas of my life (esp. career-wise). I am more comfortable in harmony than in competition. 🙂

      Thanks for sharing honestly. Use that competitiveness to soar in evolved and giving ways.

  11. […] I’d Rather Not Compete With You:For Introverts or Anyone Who Prefers Excellence Over Dominance […]

  12. EmSpeaks July 1, 2013 at 5:26 pm - Reply

    This post speaks to me!

    I can get aggressively competitive in some areas (I’m an only child, it happens), but that’s usually when I am pretty confident and comfortable—like when I’m playing a board game I enjoy, or an argument that I know is all in good fun.

    In most areas, though, my competitiveness is passive and resentful and takes the form of comparing myself with others. I’m also *terrible* at resting in my own excellence. This is why I often hate it when people want to introduce me to someone who has a similar hobby or skill as I do—writing, for example. They think we’ll bond or encourage each other, when in fact my competitive/comparison insecurities rear up and I’ll think “No, I don’t want to talk to you about this thing. This is MY thing. I don’t want to know how much better you are at it than I am.”

    • brennagee July 2, 2013 at 7:24 am - Reply

      I feel the same way about talking with other writers. I love them as a whole – writers, I mean, but I can’t help but compare my skills to their skills. Often, I feel less than them just because they seem to be so prolific and able to promote themselves so well. I bond well with other creatives but it’s best if their work is very different from mine, then I view them as comrades rather than competitors. A show of vulnerability also helps me feel more connected to them.
      My sister is about to start a blog. She’s an extrovert with much confidence. I don’t know what subject she’s chosen but I’m already preparing myself for her massive success. I truly wish her well. It’s just hard to swallow sometimes.
      Thank you for your thoughtful comment. Your writing is excellent btw.:)

      • EmSpeaks July 5, 2013 at 9:07 am - Reply

        “Often, I feel less than them just because they seem to be so prolific and able to promote themselves so well.” I am so with you there, because promotion, marketing, anything like that is my weakest area by far. (And thank you for your compliments!)

        I’m excited for your sister and her blog, since I appreciate how intimidating and fun and rewarding blogging can be. But I also completely sympathize with your own misgivings—although your writing is beautiful and there is plenty of room in cyberspace for both of you!

  13. 3D Eye October 27, 2012 at 9:40 am - Reply

    I guess overt recreational competition in which all the participants enjoy themselves is fine. However, societies and communities in which competition rather than collaboration in everyday life is overtly and covertly emphasised tend to produce individuals that are often aggressive, egocentric and often lacking in empathy and social intelligence. It’s not clear to me how this is supposed to make a better world. It makes me angry when I hear politicians speaking about how their country has to ‘compete’ with the rest of the world – as if this is supposed to make for a more peaceful, more prosperous, more harmonious and less wasteful planet. They don’t seem to see or care that if some are ‘winners’ in real life (as distinct from football, athletics, card games, etc) then there must also be ‘losers’ – meaning those who suffer or die as a consequence of their weakness or defeat. The values and virtues we teach in our homes and our schools are important for both individuals and for wider society.

    Thank you for yet another thought-provoking and enjoyable post. I agree with all you say about striving for excellence and not dominance, and about competition within relationships. Spiritual growth surely requires understanding and acceptance of those we care for, rather than critical and judgemental thinking.
    “Avoid putting yourself before others, and you can become a leader among men.” – Lao Tzu
    G

    • brennagee October 27, 2012 at 3:09 pm - Reply

      I know many people are motivated by competition. I understand that. It helps them push themselves. I’m not like that.
      I don’t think a super competitive community is healthy. I have hippie tendencies.:) I want everyone to work together and help each other. Good point about politicians pushing competition between their country and the world. How about promoting collaboration?
      What’s your experience with academic competitiveness G?

      • 3D Eye October 28, 2012 at 7:13 am - Reply

        That’s a very good question, and a very big question! Having given it some thought I’ll post the answer on 3D Eye.
        G

  14. elizabeth2560 October 27, 2012 at 5:59 am - Reply

    I can relate to this….when simple suggestions are taken as trying to ‘control’ so you start to hold back from giving input so as not to offend, and you become lost in the process. Glad to hear that you can now move forward onto excellence in your own way.

    • brennagee October 27, 2012 at 8:55 am - Reply

      Thanks Elizabeth. I am wary of controlling and competitive types but I also know I am especially sensitive to it so I have to take that into account. I also am especially aware of people who put me at ease.:)
      I keep moving forward, a little stronger every day. I love being internally motivated.

    • brennagee October 26, 2012 at 11:00 pm - Reply

      Thank you so much David. I’m happy you found it worthy of sharing.:)

  15. David Kanigan October 26, 2012 at 7:13 pm - Reply

    Strive for excellence, not dominance…very good Brenna.

    • brennagee October 26, 2012 at 11:07 pm - Reply

      That hits the nail on the head for me. I want to do things very well (inhibiting sometimes) but I don’t have to beat anyone in order to feel satisfied. Thanks for reading and commenting David.

  16. OneHotMess October 26, 2012 at 3:02 pm - Reply

    I love this!!

    • brennagee October 26, 2012 at 10:59 pm - Reply

      Thank you! Did anything in particular resonate?

      • OneHotMess October 27, 2012 at 5:38 am - Reply

        I am an INFJ and I have disliked competition since I was a child. It is probably the quickest way to get me to feeling extremely nervous and uncomfortable. All of my introvert children have this to one degree or another—performance anxiety, we call it. I have my own areas where I am a touch competitive, such as watching Jeopardy with my kids or a word game, but they are family so it doesn’t bring on that feeling of anxiety. I want to improve myself. My competition is almost fully internal and if someone “throws down the gauntlet” in an attempt to get me to do something I am not ready to do yet, it is apt to have the exact opposite effect than they intended the comment to have. I am internally propelled, not externally propelled.

        • brennagee October 27, 2012 at 8:51 am - Reply

          I am either an INFJ or an INFP (most recent). I’ve taken the test a few times and it volleys between those two.
          I am the same way. I especially do not like to be observed while competing. If I can compete anonymously like in a 5k race or in a writing competition it is more comfortable. In my last post, Introverted Not Incompetent…, I mentioned my discomfort during mediation training. I think most of the anxiety was caused by feeling like I was being observed and competing with my fellow classmates. The classmates I most looked up to were not a threat because I felt like I was learning from them, not competing with or being compared to them.
          Thanks for sharing. I also understand the need to be “ready” before performing. I love to be prepared.;)

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