A football game that ends in a tie is rarely satisfying. It may be acceptable if one of the teams was a serious underdog or if a team can earn a playoff spot with a tie but not with a loss. In many cases, however, football coaches of tying teams open themselves to criticism of “playing not to lose” rather than playing to win. True fans are often accepting of a losing effort from a team that came from behind to score a touchdown but then failed a 2-point conversion that would have given them a victory, while they can be contemptuous of the effort of a team that comes from behind to settle for a tie.
The first paragraph is really not about football. It is meant to be an introduction to dealing with a concept that may hit home to some of you – settling for second place. Not many people join The Mental Health Gym because they consider themselves to be losers. Most people who go to a physical health gym are quite healthy and committed to staying that way, and most people who come to this website are committed to building upon existing emotional muscle or are professionals committed to helping others to do so. My concern, however, is that too many people use too much of their emotional health to benefit others and not enough to benefit themselves.
In my soon-to-be released ebook, I comment upon the concept of Competent Person’s Disease – an affliction that leads people to sacrifice their own needs and goals, and do more than their share, while saving others from taking responsibility and experiencing personal growth. Those who are saved by the competent person could be spouses, children, co-workers, and friends. Competent Person’s Disease becomes imbedded in the personality because the competent person really is good at what s/he does and because others don’t have to do what they are freed from doing. At some point it becomes a fact of life – and the competent person becomes the go-to person for all types of chores below his or her level of competence because nobody else is perceived as being able to do them as well. In the home situation for example, this can include cooking, cleaning, shopping, driving, balancing the checkbook and doing all sorts of chores that seemingly can’t be shared with others. This pattern perpetuates itself even though the people who are excused from sharing in the responsibilities in that environment are often perceived as being very capable in other settings. The end result is not satisfying for anybody. Nobody likes to be perceived as incapable of pulling their own weight even if they are getting out of some chores because of it, and individuals with Competent Person’s Disease become slaves to their own competence. Typically, they become overloaded and addicted to being in second place. It’s like playing not to lose.
More will be said on this topic on this website and some of my writings in the near future. My February podcast will be devoted to overcoming Competent Person’s Disease and breaking the addiction to second place. In the meantime, the best way to guard against lapsing into this disease or allowing others to do so is to work on developing the Type P Personality. People who are personal goal-directed, positive, proactive, persistent, and playful find that their personality pattern is incompatible with the demands of Competent Person’s Disease. Always winning is not a necessary component of mental health, but not losing is not enough – if it leads to a behavior pattern that limits personal growth for you and those around you.
As usual, I’d like to hear your thoughts on my thoughts.