Fighting Competition : Winning the war against yourself
So a couple months back, I wrote a post on Instagram about running your race. Apparently I struck a chord with quite a few readers who asked for a follow up as a blogpost - so here it is!
It’s funny how we live in the most individualistic generation where it’s about “Me, Myself and I” but at the same time those individualistic tendencies are through the lens of what everyone else is doing. Subconsciously or not, the influence of other people, especially those in our sphere of influence can be quite pervasive whether we want to admit it or not.
The truth is that these influences are positive a lot of the time. Healthy aspiration to settle down with the right partner, like a friend in your peer group is a good thing. Taking encouragement from a friend who has nailed a big promotion at work, and using that to strive to achieve in our sphere is great.
However, the line between aspiration/encouragement and competition/comparison has dwindled to the extent that we find ourselves rationalising one for the other. In a highly interconnected world where one’s exploits are on view with the flick of a finger on a smartphone, we know what EVERYBODY is up to, and the immediate response is to compare or contextualise to our personal environment.
SETTING THE SCENE…. WHY THE NEED TO COMPARE?
But why is this? Why the immediate urge to start up our own hair and beauty line, or mobile app, when we see another who has seemingly embarked on a successful foray into said industry?
The truth is that at a very basic level this is inherent in us all – we as humans compare to find solace in what we accomplish or attain, compare in order to progress and chart extent and reach and supercede the benchmark.
In the context of comparison and competition however, and with the current marketing that is endemic everywhere, we now seem decide subconsciously that positive comparison means more — more money, more things, just more!
If someone else has it, “I GATS to have it!” Forget keeping up with the Joneses, everyone is Jonesing to be the “it person”, the “IG it-guy” The “Baller”, “Shot Caller”, “Queen Bee” (not Beyonce), yadayadayada… Now putting on my doctor’s hat on, the symptoms are numerous but I want to address what I consider to be the key two:
1 | Lack of contentment in our own lives can be the one of the biggest reasons for comparison and the feelings of inadequacy that it brings.
I’m reminded of Jesus in Matthew 7 talking about looking at the sawdust in someone else’s eye when there is a beam of wood in our eye. Most people read this as looking at the faults in others, but I can apply that scripture in the context of comparison and competition and say that often times when we are focusing on the thing that the other person is doing we miss out on the gravity of what lies in front of us.
When we fail to find satisfaction in what we are doing in our lives, we don’t invest in that life fully, as we spend the time wishing that we were living some false fantasy that is someone else’s life. Maybe that celebrity’s lifestyle isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. Maybe that job in the city which your friend seems to be earning a bucket load isn’t the meal ticket you perceive it to be.
Maybe, just maybe, your path trajectory is leading to somewhere greater than that individual. Or maybe not. But that’s the point. The expectation of happiness in attaining what someone else has is in itself the big fallacy that perpetuates this discontentment. Because rest assured when you climb a ladder to a level your so called peer is on, there is invariably a rung above the level you have got to. What then? Rinse, Pause, Repeat…
2 | Lack of individuality… So and so bought a Merc…. So?! So and so’s husband just got promoted to an MD at work…. So?! So and so just got engaged to so and so….. So?!
Let me be clear – I’m not saying that these are bad things, but why must your own story play out in that way? Why do you need to attain what that person has attained? Why does your lot have to be commensurate with another’s?
The Parable of the Talents where Jesus tells the story of servants who were given an share of talents in itself shows me that everyone is appointed a separate path, but the beauty of each and every path is that it is unique to us and us alone. No one else can run our race for us, and guess what? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again there are no prizes for finishing first in this life, but there is reward for being our best self.
The Apostle Paul said it best in his letter to the Galatians when he said “Let everyone be sure that he is doing his very best, for then he will have the personal satisfaction of work well done and won’t need to compare himself with someone else.” One thing that I’m learning is that the most important war you can win in this life is the one against yourself. Can you be a better person than the person you were yesterday? Can you right your wrongs? Be a better friend? Better Son? Better Partner? Do what’s in right in front of you better?
SO, HOW DO WE NAVIGATE THIS?
I think the questions we have to ask ourselves when considering all of this are:
What is my reaction when I attain something that no one else can?
What is my response when I hear someone has attained something that I am working towards for myself?
If the answer for both, respectively is - pride or envy then there is an issue that probably needs to be addressed.
Because in both cases, what has happened is that all we are experiencing is being weighed in the context of what others do or don’t do.
That is not a way I want to live, and so I have made it an active thing to celebrate earnestly with others when promotion or achievement comes, and to not lose sight of what it is that I have been assigned to achieve in this life.
I write this with the greatest sense of humility and the knowledge that as much as I seek to focus on what I’m doing it’s hard to keep focused. Especially when your hustle is hard… But let’s (note to myself also) remember that we are best served living OUR life and no one else’s. Once we realise that no one can live our lives better than us, the tranquillity and peace we’ll arrive at will release us to be the best we can be.
'But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.' Galatians 6:4
Photography by Olupitan Olusanya