The Problem With Keeping Score

Have you ever owed something to a friend? Or had a friend owe you something? No matter how close of friends you are, it never fails to become a point of tension in the relationship. How can you live life on an even playing field when that guilt is hanging over your head?

Keeping score is an un-winnable game that too many of us try to play. When you offer a favor to someone else, do you find yourself irritated when it goes unreciprocated? Do you notice yourself feeling bitter when someone near you achieves something you wanted to achieve? Keeping score can mean different things to everyone, but let’s break down what it is and why it matters:

What Does it Mean to Keep Score?

Generally, keeping score in your relationships occurs when you’re constantly seeking out ways of getting even. You do something nice, you expect something nice back. You put in work, you expect people to put in that work too. Not necessarily revenge, but simply making sure the effort you’ve given or the favors you’ve done are returned with the same amount of effort.

We often keep score with others without even noticing that we’re doing it. It can show itself in the form of jealousy or resentment — when something good happens to someone else, you may wonder what they did to deserve it. And what you didn’t do. How could they possibly deserve that thing more than you? You know how hard you work, and that sting of not being acknowledged starts to drive the need to keep score.

Why Do We Do It?

If you’re struggling with the desire to keep score and get even with the people around you, you might need to have a conversation with yourself about where that desire comes from. Why is it so important that you get even with others? And why does it matter to you what they do?

The need to keep score with others usually comes from that need to feel recognized ourselves. We want our efforts to be acknowledged and appreciated, and when we give our time or resources to others, we expect to see them at least give us the same effort in return. But when they don’t, it leads to disappointment.

Sometimes we feel like if we can just keep track of all the things, if we can just know where we stand so we know what we need to level up, we’ll reach the same success as the people around us. But no matter how diligent a scorekeeper you are, you’re never going to win that game.

The Problem with Keeping Score

When you’re keeping score in your relationships, it can be one of the quickest things to drive a wedge between you and others. If you’re spending your time analyzing every move others make and assessing how it measures up to you, you’re never going to come out on top. Instead, it’ll be a constant game of one-upping the other person. Of being owed the favor. Of being the one who’s a little bit closer to success.

The problem with keeping score is that while we’re so focused on tracking that score, we’re missing out on all the opportunities we could’ve grasped from those relationships instead. In the time we spent trying to get even and be better, we miss out on chances to grow alongside other people. We miss chances to learn from them and allow them to learn from you, no strings attached. And that kind of connection doesn’t come around very often.

It’s so important to be a generous genius with your work and give your best consistently — even when you get nothing in return. Because what you will get is the confidence that you can do you, and you can be successful no matter what the rest of the world gives or takes from you.

How to Break the Habit

Start breaking the habit of keeping score by picking up your own confidence as you move through life. Pick it up when you perform well on a job, when you achieve a goal, when you feel good about yourself, and watch that confidence build over time. When you’re so focused on what you’re doing to improve, you won’t have time to worry about what others are doing.

Sure, it can be frustrating when you’re putting in effort in a relationship that isn’t being reciprocated. But instead of turning it into a game of getting even, think about why you need to keep engaging in that relationship. If it’s making you feel bad about yourself or compromising your mindset, it’s okay to cut out the toxic people that continuously take from you. In doing this, you can build up even more confidence by standing up for yourself and taking care of your own needs.

It can be hard to stop keeping score with the people around you, especially when you’re driven, ambitious, and keep your eyes on success. But if you’re really determined to reach those goals, settling the score with others won’t be the deciding factor. Instead, it will be the effort you put in to show up for yourself that carries you over the finish line.


QOTD: How do you prevent yourself from keeping score?

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  1. This is so relatable. Sometimes I feel myself getting annoyed because I think that others around me is not pulling their weight. What I have come to realise is that just because someone isn’t reciprocating in the way that I expect or want doesn’t mean that they aren’t giving back. I have to really pause and think about it and remind myself that every individual is different and keeping score is unfair to them and myself.

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