From when you’re a kid, you’re pushed into competition with everyone around you. With your classmates. With your siblings. You get awards if you get the best grades. You get more awards if you play a competitive sport. Even if you don’t, you might be lucky enough to get an award on Sports Day. Even the fat, slow kid is in the running for the tug-o’-war.
And when you’re an adult, things are basically the same. You have to earn the most. You have to do the most. You have to put the most effort in.
It’s not enough just to be average. Even though, by definition, most people are. You have to be better before you’re appreciated.
And in order for anyone to know you’re better, you’re still pushed into almost constant competition with the world around you. There is pressure not just to live up to standards that you set for yourself, but to be better than those around you.
When that kind of weight starts to build up on you, remember that whatever you’re aiming for should be yours. Forget what other people want you to do. Forget what you feel like you should do – especially if it comes from pleasing someone else in the face of pleasing yourself.
Above all, remember the reason you compete in the first place.
COMPETITION IS ABOUT FAIR GAME, NOT SABOTAGE
Your successes should be based on your achievements, not somebody’s else’s failing. Coming first is not an achievement if you cheated to get there. You’ll never be able to judge how good you really are if your opponent isn’t at their best. The aim of competition is to bring people together by displaying their skills. By undermining that, you cheapen the effort that everyone puts in. There’s a difference between competing and being the kind of sore player no one wants to be around.
TO BE BETTER THAN THEM’ IS A SHALLOW GOAL
If that’s the only thing you want to achieve, your achievement will be worth nothing. Try to aim for something specific. If other people are racing you to get there, then use that as motivation. But don’t forget that you had a goal in the first place and, if you get there at all, no matter how many people come before you, that still counts as a success. Let that be enough.
THE ONLY PERSON YOU NEED TO COMPETE WITH IS YOURSELF
You don’t need to be better than anyone. If someone else is judging you and there’s a prize at the end, that’s slightly different. But in life, in general, the only person you ever need to be better than is you, the last time you did this. Worrying about what anyone else is doing is a waste of your time and energy. As long as you’re improving your own skills, that’s all that matters
YOU’LL ACHIEVE MORE WORKING TOGETHER
Why let yourself get worked up and stressed over being better than someone else, when you could work together and get it done in half the time? Obviously, this can’t be the case with your weekend football match. But in basically everything else, if you’re competing with someone, the thing you’re fighting over is something you have in common. Bond with them over it. Work together. Be better, together.
If you expect to live as part of a community, you’ll need to be able to work with people. Even the ones you don’t like. Why waste time competing at all?