Ending the Competition

I’ve never been a competitive person. In my younger years I used to ride in horse show competitions. Not because I wanted to compete with others, but because I wanted to push myself. Besides, it was all in good fun. By the time I was fourteen, I found myself soured by competition. Humans can be rather ruthless, and none more ruthless than teenage girls. I didn’t like who I became when I was competing. I didn’t like who my friends became during competitions. When one friend would win a class over another, the winner gloated and the losers would shit-talk her behind her back.

As I grew into a young woman I distanced myself from competition. By the time I was nineteen I decided the only person I wanted to compete against was myself. Sadly, life has a way of throwing us into competitions whether we want them or not. We compete for jobs. We compete for mates. We compete with our friends, sometimes not even realizing we’re doing it until it becomes strangely toxic.

In my younger years, in the writing world, I found myself competing with writers far more experienced and skilled than I, for limited slots in science fiction short story magazines. At times I felt myself envying the writers who were chosen, and I even caught myself scoffing at their work and telling others, “Who thought this was worthy of publication?”

In my personal life, I was in a competitive relationship with my best friend, who was constantly belittling my intelligence because she felt both envious and insecure about her weight. I was, at the time, a petite little thing by nature. Instead of realizing what was really bothering her, I engaged in the competition of “who is smarter” with her until I realized how horrible the “friendship” made me feel. That’s when I realized she and I had little in common and for years, despite the fact that she had her own interests and skills and talents, she’d gone after mine via competition, all because she was jealous of my looks. And I, being insecure about my intelligence (because pretty girls often have their intelligence belittled or ignored) willfully took on the competition with gusto. My best friend had become my worst enemy.

Again, in my mid twenties, I vowed I would stop competing with others and only compete with myself. This attitude began working for me. Pretty soon it was ME getting my short stories published. I had my own computer column in an international trade journal. I was the writer the beginning writers were competing with and cussing out. But it was because I stopped caring about what everyone else thought or what everyone else was doing that I became successful.

Sadly that lesson, mind your own business instead of everyone else’s, was still somewhat lost on me.

For the most part I did pretty well. When I noticed friendships or even work situations devolving into a strange competitive sport, I simply removed myself from the equation. It was the easiest way to avoid the nastiness that often ensued in such situations.

But then competition got sneaky. In my thirties I began getting really serious about writing novels and books instead of articles and short stories.  I became even more involved with the online occult community and the generational Daemonolaters. It didn’t take long for me to fall into that same pattern of competition I’d been trying to avoid. I began thinking in terms of wrong ways and right ways,two things that don’t necessarily exist in the subjective world of the esoteric. I began that destructive thought pattern where I’d decided my experience, when it contradicted someone else’s, trumped the other person’s experience. I’d become the very thing I never wanted to be — a one-true-wayer. Since all the people around me were the same way, I went with the herd. It simply reinforced my feelings that I was right and others were wrong. This created a lot of conflicts on forums and with people practicing different paths and/or techniques who felt the same way about their experience. They had the one-true-way, too.

The problem with spirituality and thinking you have the-one-true-way (TM), is that it devolves into these competitive, petty, stupid arguments that are completely invalid. I’ll explain that more in a minute.

So here I am, being reinforced by the  people I surround myself with, that I’m right and everyone else is wrong. Add to this being a leader in the community, and/or publishing books – and things get tricky. Because then other authors/leaders, who also have the one-true-way, begin getting jealous of those doing better than them and shit talking them to their circles etc… and these two things is where we start getting the stupid and petty infighting that goes on in the occult community.

The funny thing is that rationally, we all know that spirituality and enlightenment are NOT competitive sports. No one has the one-true-way. We’re all simply on different roads leading to the same place. Don’t take this to mean that I’m saying that foundation isn’t important to me, or that I have an anything goes policy for myself. I don’t. I have a certain set of practices I adhere to and certain things I believe — but I’ve stopped allowing contradictory beliefs to effect me to the extent that they used to.

When you allow what others are doing or believing to effect you, or you are jealous that someone else’s ideas and thoughts are gaining more attention or popularity than yours, you’re engaging in an unhealthy competition that, by default, is going to end badly.

Ego plays a huge role in this. Most magicians are very arrogant, or can be, myself included.

Some people also erroneously think that the popularity of someone else’s ideas somehow invalidates their own ideas. Again creating insecurity and jealousy, arrogance, and hence competition.

Some people are hardcore into working with Angels. Others like working with Demons. Others still prefer planetary spirits. Some of us work with all of them and think they all different types of Daemons.  While one spirit type or method may be better over another for an INDIVIDUAL, in the grand scheme of things, one isn’t better over another. They’re simply different roads to the same place. Gnosis. Understanding. Wisdom.

So again, now in my forties, I am reminding myself that  I compete with no one but myself. But this time I am adding that it is far better to mind one’s own business than it is to mind everyone else’s. And if I run across an idea, technique or theory that pisses me off I now try to explore why it bothers me. Then I gently remind myself that just because it runs contrary to my experience, doesn’t mean it won’t work for someone else. I CHOOSE whether or not I allow myself to feel challenged by it, or suspect of it. It’s a choice to feel threatened by it. It’s also a choice to allow arrogance get the better of us and to openly start talking shit about those we disagree with – even if it is within our own circles.

We can choose not to give a shit and to live and let live, too.  Thus removing ourselves from a pointless competition that only serves to distract us from our true will and our own Great Work.

If more occult authors and community leaders, big name or not, would recognize this and practice it by being mindful of both arrogance and the pointless competitions we engage in (knowingly or not), we could serve as an example to our community and perhaps end a lot of the pointless and petty arguing, infighting, and competition that goes on. It’s food for thought anyway.

About Steph

Steph is an award winning and bestselling author of thrilling steamy and paranormal romances, dark urban fantasy, occult horror-thrillers, cozy mysteries, contemporary romance, sword and sorcery fantasy, and books about the esoteric and Daemonolatry. A Daemonolatress and forever a resident of Smelt Isle, she is happily married and cat-mom to three pampered house cats. Her muse is a demanding sadistic Dom who often keeps her up into the wee hours of the morning. You can contact her at swordarkeereon@gmail.com

2 Replies to “Ending the Competition”

  1. When I was an aspiring writer, I was involved in an online writing workshop and met quite a lot of other writers in my approximate skill bracket. One, let’s call her E, wrote a lot of short stories – some actually published – took critique well, and had a rather dedicated following. Another short story writer, L, was incredibly talented, had sold a few shorts, enjoyed adoration but not criticism, and also had a legion of fans because, truly, L is talented. Shy ol’ me, had a few close friends, no real fans, couldn’t write a decent short to save my life, wrote overlong novels and, frankly, made shit up as I went. I struggled with the craft in a lot of ways, how to make this work with that, WTF is passive voice, etc. Of the three of us, I alone wasn’t ‘educated’ to be a writer, and both E and L were a great help in explaining stuff I didn’t quite *get*.

    E made more sales and broke into print, rightfully so. I was submitting my novel but not making much progress. L had a few e-sales and struggled to write novels – shorts are L’s natural form – and since novels were all I knew, my pointed critiques (much gentler than L ever gave, btw) on pacing and character (novels accomplish those things totally differently than short stories) were met with scorn, derision, and anger. How dare I, the unpublished, uneducated schlub dare to say their MC was cardboard, etc, and pretty much told me to fuck off. E kept writing, kept getting more and more fans, but still remained helpful to those of us who were willing to work. Fwiw, I was pretty fringe acquaintance to E, since I really wasn’t anywhere near as accomplished.

    E sold a novel to a major publisher (L was thanked in the acknowledgments, btw, I wasn’t, but I plugged the book frequently), then I sold. To the same publisher. E sent me a gracious congrats email. Things churned forward until my first book came out and reviews started. Most were great, but some were very, very nasty, and of those nearly all were penned by L or their significant other. Seriously nasty, and they predominantly focused on my cardboard characters and transparent plot depths, the same things I’d critted L about the one time L decided to write a novel.

    Later, while embroiled in a rather noisy online kerfuffle over the amount of novel advances I learned that E had received a MUCH higher advance than I had and it upset me. We were broke – coulda really used that extra money!! – and, dammit, I wrote just as great as they did. I was soooo jealous.

    Then it hit me. It wasn’t about E’s ability or mine. It was about marketing and how E had a huge following in place while I did not. And the nasty reviews from L weren’t about my books at all, they were about L’s inability (at that time) to write a functioning novel and their frustration of knowing I wasn’t as talented a writer as they were yet I’d done what they couldn’t.

    I was, right then, about a day after I learned of the disparity in advances, able to push aside the jealousy and simply feel happy for E. The rewards were totally deserved. Would I have liked them? Yes. But I hadn’t put in the work and, frankly, I’m still not willing to chase markets and fans as hard as they do. And I forgave L for for being so nasty at the crit and later reviews, even tho they have, apparently, not forgiven me. But that’s okay. Jealousy isn’t my game.

    So, in short, I don’t know if it’s so much about being competitive as it is about being jealous. I am fiercely competitive at board/card games (ooooh, I hate to lose!) but when it happens it’s because I wasn’t as good or lucky as the other player(s), and I certainly don’t hold that against them. As far as I know, they don’t hold it against me when I win. Least we’re still all friends. 😉

    Anyway, there’s nothing at all wrong with a little friendly competition, it can really be the kick in the pants to help someone up their game – competing with E and L certainly improved my writing!! – but jealousy doesn’t help anything at all, it just creates poison and ruins perfectly good friendships. {{hugs}}

    • Oh I agree! There is healthy competition, and there’s jealousy. Sadly, in some of the circles I run in, the two go hand-in-hand and bad things happen. I’m so glad you’re one of those people who doesn’t take competition to the extreme and you’re not prone to jealousy. A lot of people could learn from that example. 🙂

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