I think we're all fairly competitive in our own right. I mean, that's how the human race has kept itself alive for so long, isn't it? But if you were born a naturally more competitive person, there isn't much you can do to turn it off. Even if it's stressful, even if it's something that you don't particularly like about yourself, you can't help that drive to do better, be better, be the best. It might seem like it comes at the expense of other things in your life, but I think a large part of that has to do with the way we are channeling our competitive natures.
The idea of being competitive has gotten a bad reputation — instead of associating competitiveness with ambition and betterment, we associate it with ruthlessness, and the idea that you're "out for yourself." But the truth is even the most team-oriented and giving people can be the most inherently competitive. Being gracious and supportive and also being competitive are not mutually exclusive personality traits. (Cedric Diggory and any other quality Hufflepuff can prove that.) But the people who have really mastered that balance of being competitive and supportive are the ones who have mastered exactly how to funnel that energy: rather than competing with people around them, they compete with themselves. Here are all the reasons you should be competitive with yourself and no one else:
You Have A Much Healthier Measure Of Your Success
I am all about stealing my mom's wisdom, and one of the things she has always preached to us is to "run your own race." Because hard truth: Someone is always going to be better than you at something. While you were out pursuing your career, someone else got the wedding and the kid you wanted; while you were training for that marathon, someone else got their dream job. When you look at the broad scope of everything your friends are doing — which is way too easy these days, given all the outlets we can show off our lives online — you will inevitably be able to only see the imbalances, the high points in other people's lives where yours doesn't yet "measure up."
When you learn to be competitive with yourself instead of with other people, you don't have to panic because someone else got something first. You know it's coming to you at the right place, at the right time, when you put in the work or the heart required to get it. You can put stock in what you do have and see what you have accomplished, and use that as a springboard to make yourself more successful — not just to follow the footsteps of other people who have already succeeded in something.
You Get A Better Sense Of What You Are Capable Of
Another hard truth of adulthood is that there are some things that we just suck at. Or arguably worse: there are some things that we're very good at, but just plain not good enough to be successful at. I'm not saying that you should give up on your dreams, but I am saying that looking into yourself rather than outwardly at other people gives you an opportunity to assess whether or not those dreams are right for you. Once you do that, you can either make a commitment to find all the weak spots you have in making that dream a reality, and do whatever it takes to improve them — or you can let that dream go long enough to see an opportunity you might have otherwise been blind to, chasing something that ultimately might not have made you happy the way it made other people happy.
You Embrace More Of The Unknown
When you're constantly competing with everyone else, you're only competing in arenas that other people have set up for you. Sure, you might get to the point where you are winning in those arenas — but if you spend your whole life competing with other people, those are the only arenas you'll ever see. Only when you use yourself as a measure for your success do you open yourself up to the infinite things you could improve on and pursue, the infinite things that might ultimately make you much happier than what everybody else is doing.
You Get To Define Your Own Success
We know what "success" looks like. For Millennials, "success" is doing what we watched our parents do: graduate college, get the "right" job, meet the "right" person, buy a house, start a family. That isn't to say that people who do that these days aren't successful — sure they are. But the ones who are successful are the ones who pursued that because it made them happy, not because they thought it should. Similarly, when you let go of people's expectations and follow whatever it is that makes you happy, you define your success not in the concrete "evidence" of it, but in how you feel, how you fulfill yourself, and how you choose to live your life.
You Become That Much More Free Of People's Judgment
When you compete with yourself, you are, essentially, dismissing other people's measures for success. You might find yourself pursuing something that would seem crazy or like a waste of time to someone else, but it doesn't matter anymore — you aren't subject to what they think of you. You don't have to answer to them. You only have to answer to yourself. Are you working hard enough? Are you doing everything you could possibly do to live the life you want? Only you can answer these questions for yourself, and when it's just you, you are forced to be as brutally honest or forgiving of yourself as nobody else would be.
You Will Never Rest On Your Laurels
The most significant and realest danger of only competing with other people? Beating them. It would be so tempting to stop your motion once you have achieved something, satisfied because it's "better" than what everyone else is doing. But that satisfaction is fleeting. The only thing that will ever truly satisfy a competitive person is the lifelong pursuit to improve and challenge yourself in new ways, and when you're looking inward for that inspiration, you always will.
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