i grew up in an extremely competitive household. whether the name of the game was soccer, grades in school, musical instruments or a “friendly” bout of monopoly, my brothers set the stage for my aggressive existence. 98% of the time, i am grateful for and proud of this characteristic. healthy opposition encourages me to aim higher, strive for more and take sincere stock in the things i do. sometimes, however, i know i should shut it off because it’s not beneficial. it is a quick transition from competitive to comparative, and the result of erroneous comparisons between myself and others is devastating and derailing.
for example, it’s one thing to look at someone in the gym and think, “man, that girl is working her ASS off,” whilst indulging in a mini-competition with her (in your own mind, of course, you don’t want to freak her out) to run faster, lift harder, focus more intensely. assuming you don’t strain anything or get carried away, this (to me) seems a perfectly legitimate mechanism for motivation. where it gets dangerous, is when you look at her and think, “man, that girl has a seriously hot booty,” whilst indulging in self-deprecation because you don’t think yours is on par.
outside the gym, on one hand, you can look at someone’s life and believe she has it all (though she probably doesn’t, just as a heads up) – great job, loving family, fun friends and compare every single aspect of your perception of her life to your own life. you can wallow in self-pity about the components you feel you lack in juxtaposition. on the other hand, you can use the opportunity to further solidify what it is about this person’s life you admire, create specific goals for yourself and turn your jealousy into motivation for YOUR life.
i guess upon further elucidation, it’s not the act of comparison that brings us down. it’s what we do with it. frequently, i’ve been guilty of letting the comparison game lead to self-doubt, repressed hostility via jealousy and general feelings of dejection. when i focus on the comparison itself, i’m blinded to the opportunities afforded by its implications. i doubt i’ll ever be able to stop comparing myself to others … i can’t speak for everyone else on earth, but to me, it’s a habit ingrained in my psyche. from now on, when i notice it happening, i’ll choose to use it as a learning experience about myself. i’m constantly discovering things i want that i didn’t realize were within me and seeing them in others is one of the most effective methods of bringing those secrets out.
so the bottom line for me is: don’t stop competing. i love to challenge myself, dan and anyone else who will put up with me. whether it’s improving my mile time to compete with my own legs or forcing dan to learn yoga poses so i’ll have someone to celebrate those difficult inversions with, i see this as a healthy and effective catalyst for progress.
when i encounter self-comparison, a deadlier form of competition, i’ll indulge with the promise of putting the information to good use with action and determination.
any effective comparisons you’ve made lately that led to better things?