Who are our real competitors? Are we supposed to compete in life? What kind of competition are we supposed to engage in? What is the essence of competition? How do I handle friends that compete with me? These are questions asked by one of my ardent readers. Though no reference made to it, it appears that the questions are consequence of my earlier write-up titled,  There Is No Mate In Life, where I look at man as a unique creation of God that is beautifully created to run his own race at his own pace on his own lane. Man, I conclude in the write up, is his only and greatest competitor. Of a truth, I have been asked the above questions or something very similar severally at different fora, but whether I did justice to them is something I do not know.

Balarba John

Again, I will have to disappoint you if peradventure you think this article attempts to remedy my inadvertent failure (if at all, it is!) to provide conclusive answers to those questions. On the other hand, there is yet another thing about those questions that I find very interesting, which I want to talk about and perhaps that will settle the issue or will illuminate more on the competition polemic. Before then, if you have not read my article on There Is No Mate In Life, I urge you to do so.

The 2nd Law of Robert Greene’s 48 Laws of Power has this admonition that many ignore but very fundamental. It goes thus,

“Be wary of friends – they will betray you more quickly, for they are easily aroused to envy...In fact, you have more to fear from friends than from enemies....”

Competition arguably is as old as man. Although there are some competitions that are considered healthy, which have to do with self-development and attainment of life’s goals and in business – producing quality products rather cheaply than your counterparts, government imposed competition so as to break monopoly etc. Most competitions arouse out of envy. Interestingly, we are most envied by the unlikely – friends!

We may think friends should be people that have our back at all times and are ready to contribute to our progress and are happy when we experience breakthrough in life. Yes, those are things expected of true friends. They are among the ingredients that spice up true friendship and make it a palatable adventure. However, the world is changing so also the notion of friendship. These days, good friends are but a scarce commodity. You cannot get them everywhere.  In fact, even if you get them you can hardly afford their price. Yes, I mean price


The price is what we do not want to pay. We all crave for good friends and cry so loud and bitterly when they disappoint us or do not live to expectations. But how many of us are actually good friends? I think the price we should pay for attracting and keeping good friends is being good friends ourselves. It is a simple law. Do not expect love where you hate. If you want love, sow the seed of love. Same with friendship, you get it and keep it based on who you are – how much of a good friend you are.

Like earlier stated, the world is changing and friends are not what they used to be. There is hardly any fool proof formulaic as to having good friends that you can bank on or better still, that will not turn to sting you like a bee even when you are good to them. The reason is simple: even the best of friends are easily aroused to envy. Why envy? Most times they see you as their major competitor. You are seen as a threat to their own very success and progress in life. They want what you have and they think the best way is to creepily contest against you. Sometimes they consider you as unworthy of the position you are occupying, your spate of success or see themselves better than you and more worthy of your position. This can come in the form of spite – the spite is never a result of their detestation for success but a question mark over your merit. Again, it has nothing to do with their belief in merit but rather wanting what you have and feeling unhappy that they cannot have it or have not had it before you.

Another reason why friends compete is low self-esteem. When you see yourself lower than other people, you are tended to focus your strength more on meeting up. You begin to do activities not around your talent or within the confines of your strength or capability but outstretching yourself merely to demonstrate how better you are than your friends.

Lack of contentment is also said to be among reasons friends compete. There is nothing wrong with desiring more from life. To work harder to break new grounds or outdo your previous success is not a crime. But lack of contentment bred out of sheer evil covetousness is wrong. This is what makes you want to engage in the process of trying to acquire, beat or out beat or win your friends.

Competing against your friends or seeing your friends as competitors is not only unwise, as it displays a flagrant waste of time and energy, but also kills creativity and denies you the joy of reaching the summit of your chosen endeavour seamlessly using your own uniqueness and individual dispositions. It often than not denies you the advantage that you might have gained by humbly learning that guarantees your self-development and sustaining success. More so, it erodes your peace of mind – this is something money or even so called success cannot buy – competition sets you to unnecessary and continuous race that creates unbearable tension and places so much pressure on you, which in the long run may have adverse effects on your health.


Nonetheless, competition born out of envy is as destructive as envy itself. The emotion of envy is like anger and like the deadly disease of cancer; it develops and spreads too quickly and eats the healthy tissue in you. One of the ways to fix it, it to remove it! Nobody is your competitor. You are on your own track in life. In this life though we are related and interconnected in many ways, we are still distinct beings with individual purposes, which we are created to fulfil here on earth. Man is never created to live forever on planet earth. He is created to live and after a while to transit.  Life on earth is too short and your purpose is too important for you to settle to petty competition or beam your focus on the head or feet of your friends. You and your friends may all be racers on the same field but certainly not competing against each other.

Negative competition is mundane and it is but ugly stains on your wonderful destiny. Get it fixed! There is some kind of competition that we are encouraged to engage in. It is not competition of contesting against your friends or making concerted efforts to beat or defeat your friends. We are encouraged to engage in an healthy competition. Healthy competition is one born out of a clean and humble heart whereas you derive inspiration to conquer, to do the impossible and advance the frontiers of education, religion, technology, science, entertainment, business, politics, medicine and so much more. It is simply telling yourself: “If it was possible for ‘A’ to achieve those goals despite mountain of challenges then It’s possible for me to achieve my goals in life despite what I’m facing”. Healthy competition is about self-development and ability to become great in whatever area you choose or to do much greater things riding on the shoulder of those you consider giants in that particular area.

Finally, it is hilarious when friends turned competitors. I think a good piece of advice to them is in these few words: “Go look at the mirror, the person you see there is your competitor!


BALARABA JOHN is doctoral researcher at Leeds Beckett University, United Kingdom, Founder of Cintabali Consults International, and Advisor to She is the author of the well acclaimed book, Destroy Boredom, Create Your Happiness. You can reach her on Twitter , Instagram, or LinkedIn.