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On being your own competition

On being your own competition


I went to an all-girls secondary school which, amongst other things, installed in me a competitive spirit. Being competitive has its advantages, of course, especially within the more or less level playing field of secondary school. Having teachers who inspire you to elevate your standard of work is great and can work wonders within the hallowed walls of secondary school. However, competition can exacerbate feelings of doubt and insecurity, especially when you are being compared with someone else who appears to have everything in place.

One of the things I wished was reinforced while I was in school, but would subsequently learn the hard way, is the importance of competing with yourself, or how being the best version of yourself is more rewarding than outperforming your colleagues, partners, friends, siblings.

It is difficult to avoid comparing yourself with others. As women, and especially as women of a certain age, when the vagaries of biology start having an impact, it is easy to slip into the (dis)comfort of watching your peers seemingly sail by. You get the twinge of impatience looking at your own life and at those who seem to be nailing it adulting. Adulting by the way is the “practice of behaving in a way characteristic of a responsible adult, especially the accomplishment of mundane but necessary tasks,” according to the Oxford Living Dictionary. I also include in adulting owning your own car, home, and having a retirement plan in addition to savings, you know, things responsible adults do.

These things have their value, so I understand the impatience that arises when a person who might not have yet reached these milestones looks around and feels as though the world is passing them by. The urge to outdo becomes strong, but perhaps there is a better way.

If I am honest, I too have had moments when that impatience arises and the urge to outdo follows closely behind. However, I have come to realize that acting under impatience can often be comparable to treading quicksand: you are making the effort, but you end up sinking yourself really.

I am not saying here that competition is bad. I am saying that instead of looking at your colleagues, partners, friends etc, perhaps that energy could be better channelled inwards. Maybe that competitive streak might be better served creating a vision board, outlining some concrete goals and charting the steps towards achieving those goals. I suspect repurposing energies in that way would be lot less stressful and more fulfilling. Additionally, a way to be your own competition would include seeing where you were before, reckoning the steps you have completed, acknowledging the missteps and learning from them to move on. In other words, self-reflection and not reflecting on others would be key to being your own competition.

This is not an easy task, of course. Many efforts might not yield fruit. However, I believe if the goal is worth it, then falling on your journey should be seen as a moment to rest, regroup and try again. Competition is alright, but competing with yourself, who you were yesterday, last week, last year, could be truly rewarding.