I am, by nature, a competitive person. That can be a good thing; the spirit of competition can push us to dig deep and excel at things that are important to us. It can just as easily be a bad thing, especially when combined with poor impulse control — eBay is an especial moral pitfall for me. It can also be a bad thing when we look at the triumphs of others not as an inspiration to do better and achieve more, but as a source of embitterment, jealousy, and as a direct causal link to our own failures.
I was reflecting on all this recently, with regard to areas of life other than the sport of showing dogs, but I think it applies equally there. A healthy spirit of competition gives us a critical eye when examining our own dogs for strengths and faults, and makes us look for ways to improve our breeding programs, our grooming, our handling, and our sportsmanship.
Expressed in its negative aspect, however, it can lead to hard feelings between peers, to envy that turns the heart bitter, and to accusations of treachery and underhandedness, ultimately resulting in the making of excuses for why you aren’t doing better and winning more, rather than looking to your own stock to see how it might be improved.
While I try and remember to display good sportsmanship, I know that I have been guilty in my heart of feeling jealousy and of thinking privately that this dog or that did not deserve to win over mine. And maybe, once in a great, great while, that is true.
But that shouldn’t matter. What should matter — what NEEDS to matter — is that we all recognize the competitive spirit within ourselves and in each other, and express it in its most positive aspect. Let’s remember to smile and congratulate the winner of the day, no matter how much it might pain us, and to look at our own dogs with the same critical eye we’re already passing over everyone else’s. Don’t begrudge your peers their victories; celebrate them, be inspired by them.
And one day, you just might inspire someone else.