The Relationship Between Competition
and Self-Esteem and the Effects on Performance
Just as performance and achievement have always been an integral part of society, so have the components that improve and enhance them. Whether it be in school, sports, or at work, the quality of how well we perform our given tasks and challenges is something that is crucial to us as individuals and as a community. As such, the factors of what makes us perform our best have been the subjects of many major researches, with self-esteem and competition coming to the forefront. While both have their own pros and cons concerning performance and achievement, the majority of society seems to take the stance that one is a “cure-all” and the other is just plain evil. One side believes that self-esteem should be taught at all ages and competition disposed of because it is “a structure that pits us against one another [and] tends to inhibit our performance” (Kohn 50), while the other team encourages competition and condemns self-esteem as “the root of all evil, particularly the evil of narcissism” (Hewitt 117). The argument constantly points to the question of which is better for the improvement of performance: self-esteem or competition? While both sides present real, valid points, a different question comes to mind: must we be so bent on only one solution? Although both self-esteem and competition have very notable downfalls, there is no denying that both play crucial roles in the quality of performance, and it is a mistake to believe that we can simply pick one and discard the other.
To understand how self-esteem and competition can work together, it is important to first understand how they work on their own. So, what is self-esteem? The Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology tells us that “The original definition, [first used by William James in 1890], presents self-esteem as a ratio concerning one’s success/pretensions” (Corsini, Craighead, and Irving)....