I believe that we should strive to be the best we can, to try new things and challenge ourselves, do some scary things sometimes. What I don't like is people thinking they are not good enough because they can't do something as well as someone else, that they are not smart because they can't keep up others. We all have our own unique gifts and talents, and some people just naturally excel at some things.
What I see a lot in my Tai Chi classes and also amongst kids, is that because they can't catch on immediately they think they are dumb. This frustrates me no end, everyone has different learning abilities and interests (who is going to excel at something they are not interested in) and I see people getting down about it.
I don't know if it is society, that the pressure is put on that if you can't do something there is something wrong with you, or just pressure from ourselves. When we were at school you knew where in the class you came for that subject, and even if you got 79%, you felt bad if you were 3rd last or last in the class. I think those days are gone now (mostly) but there still is that competition and I think if people feel bad, it is bad competition, but also we need to learn that not everyone can be first or good at something, and that is OK to.
I don't think this is done consciously by anyone but I think sometimes it happens anyway. I always tell my students (mostly retired people) that they are not to try and keep up (catch up)with others, they should learn at their pace, everyone learns differently and at different speeds, but as they start to get it, the learning process speeds up naturally. But, there is no competition.
When I first started BMX racing, I was embarrassed as I was at the back of the pack, I am still there but I am closer. I am not athletic at all so I will never be fast but I have made sure I have learnt new skills, I don't believe I have wasted my time. When I first started I didn't think I could make it over the jumps (they are actually higher than they look), but now I am faster, can balance on the start gate(though can't get out the gate too fast), pump over the jumps and ride two classes of bikes :) In saying all that, I still hope I am not embarrassing my partner in crime and life, he is very good at BMX. I know that is pressure I am putting on myself, not to look silly, I am nearly over it after three years.
I think kids suffer the most, they try so hard to fit in and it just doesn't always work. They can try their absolute hardest, but there will always be that group who are cooler and smarter and have no problem letting others know about it. Kids also have the problem that they think they can be good at everything first time, mind you some adults think that too (I know I want everything and I want it now).
Healthy competition is good, trying to improve yourself and learn new things, encouraging everyone to do the best they can and to feel good that they have given it a shot. Not everyone is going to be good at everything but it doesn't mean you can't try everything and have fun doing it, and you will most likely find that thing that is your talent or gift, we all have one.