Develop a healthy relationship with competition

Early on, we learned that winning a game of Go Fish or Hide-and-Seek was positive. It gave us a reason to celebrate or be celebrated. Without some competitive spirit, few of us would be here. You’ve probably been first (or close to it) a lot. You’ve compiled a list of “wins” neatly into a CV and presented it proudly. It’s part of who you are and why you’re in dental school. But here, all of your peers have similar résumés. Some may be more impressive than yours. An unfamiliar territory for most, this comparison becomes a source of negativity for many.

When competing with the best of the best, each year presents different challenges. Waves of inadequacy will come in a variety of shapes and sizes. But most of the competition happens in your head. Learning to positively channel it will not only help you stay afloat, but it will help you sail through dental school.

Identify the trigger
Who is it? When you boil it down, it’s always someone. Even competing for a prize means beating someone. It’s about increasing pride or improving your own standing. Pride is perspective and standing is a contextual construct. The “who” can be specific, or just peers in general. It can be teachers, parents or even yourself. Someone can be a trigger in one environment but not another. Awareness is key. Pay attention to the context facilitating the trigger. The “who” is encompassed by the “where” and “when.” Identifying and acknowledging these will allow you to evaluate and adjust the “why.”

Find the source
Once you ID the trigger, find the source. This is the drive behind the trigger. It’s the “why.” Is it a need to be better than your trigger? Who does that benefit? And how? Dig deeper into your inherent motivations. Is there a big picture net gain? Or a small personal gain? Celebrating little personal wins is fine, good even, as long as it’s not at the expense of someone else. The “why” could also be making parents or mentors proud. Are you trying to repay an intangible debt for their support or guidance? They do not offer their love expecting to be repaid. They expect your
best effort. We are our own toughest critics.

This article originally appeared in the August 2017 issue of Contour. Read the rest of the article.

~Victoria Castens, Temple ’18

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"ASDA Archives" revisits articles previously published by ASDA via the Mouthing Off blog or Contour magazine. If you have a favorite article from the archives that you'd like to see featured on Mouthing Off, email Editor@ASDAnet.org.

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