Crossing the boundary of toxic competition

You are your own biggest source of competition. 

How many times have we all heard that? Yet, as a competitive society, it is clear that this aphorism isn’t quite true. Frequently, it is the pressure of falling behind in some sort of competition that pushes us to work harder and be better. 

While some people may be able to motivate themselves, having a tangible goal in the form of a competitor allows us to reach our full potential. When dedicating ourselves toward a lofty ideal begins to seem unfeasible, it is the imperfection of our competitive targets that drive us to continue pushing ourselves. For example, it is easier to aim to be the highest grade in class than to aim for a perfect score. 

In addition, being in a competition is also a good bonding activity, as people that are on the same team quickly learn to cooperate for the common goal of toppling the “enemy.” It allows for a team to stay focused throughout the entirety of a competition and fosters better collaboration. As a member of several competition clubs, and an ex-volleyball player, I can personally attest to the power of a mutual enemy in fostering camaraderie among people on the same side. 

However, casting a person or group of people as our opponent can come with serious consequences. Competition can quickly become toxic when our desire to surpass others overcomes our desire to truly improve ourselves. This mentality leads to unfair competition, in which people are willing to sacrifice their morals and hurt others to win. 

While I believe that Walnut High School’s feud with Diamond Bar High School is truly a friendly competition, sometimes the line between friendly and toxic is blurred. The competitive circumstances under which our rivalry operates encourages mob mentality between the two sides. For example, at this year’s Branding Iron pep rally, the Brahma was unceremoniously shoved into a trash can and kicked over to the cheers and excitement of Walnut students. I admit, I also found it hilarious at the time. However, after stepping back from that adrenaline-filled atmosphere, many students began to share their discomfort with what had happened. Especially with the recent discipline assembly, the abuse directed at the Brahma did not seem to fall in line with the principles for which Walnut High School stands.  

Although rivalry is a good way to get school support for a sports team, it can quickly turn toxic when people start to genuinely wish harm upon the other side. Instead of seeing competition as a place to further ourselves, we begin to see it as a metaphorical battleground where there can only be one victor: us. This unwillingness to lose creates even more problems, as people become desperate to win by any means necessary.

Take the 43 Russian athletes who were barred from the 2018 Winter Olympics after they were discovered to be taking performance-enhancing drugs. Their actions thoroughly soiled the spirit of competition and corrupted the initial goal of the race, which was to reward the most deserving competitor. By prioritizing accolades over personal growth, the Russian athletes sacrificed their morals and ultimately ended up being a loser. 

These examples show a clear “by all means necessary” mentality. In everything, it is paramount to be engaged in our personal improvement instead of an end goal. With this mindset, it is much easier for competition to foster our best selves, rather than pit us against each other. After all, reaching our full potential is what makes us truly winners.

By Nicole Chiang, Manager and copy editor-in-chief
Photo by Tristan Gonzalez