On the wall,
Who is better of us all?
Daily, Snow White’s stepmom would sit before her magic mirror, seeking to discover who was most beautiful in the kingdom. The Queen was pleased every time she was undisputed; until the day, the mirror named Snow-white as the fairest in the land.
Enraged, the proud Queen made it her mission to reclaim “the title,” even if it meant the death of sweet little Snow.
A simple story that was just another fairy-tale back in the days, but presently holds much more meaning.
The Journey to Success
Success constitutes different things to different people. In the pursuit of it, we tend to assess our abilities and views against those around us—especially those whose views or paths we consider similar to our own.
This is a habit where people rank themselves against others (of a select group) on a range of qualities, such as intelligence, attractiveness, height, wealth, skills, and more. The Social Comparison Theory by Leon Festinger delves deeper into this human tendency.
Depending on the self-imposed ranking, one may feel secure or not “good enough.” A boost in self-esteem results when one reaches a favorable ranking, while a lower position may lead to feelings of shame or discontentment. The resulting lack of self-confidence could fuel intense competition in the person making the evaluation.
When Competition Sets In
Competition can be useful if it propels you to be a better version of yourself. However, a perception of inferiority could lead to internal anger or hostility towards others. Especially to those whom one considers as “higher ranking.”
Our lives are lived in intense and anxious struggle, in a swirl of speed and aggression, in competing, grasping, possessing, and achieving, forever burdening ourselves with extraneous activities and preoccupations. – Sogyal Rinpoche
The pursuit of perfection propelled my desire to be at the top of the game in whatever I engaged in. Adding fear of failure to the mix drove me to work even harder. Never finding time to relish in the successes or be in the moment.
From aiming for the Top Students spots in any exam (Top 3 at best and Top 10 at worst); to concealing the feeling of shame when I didn’t make it to the list.
“Losing” in my first Scrabble game became embarrassing rather than a fun-filled learning experience. All the while wishing for one more game, where I would be among the top scorers.
On a stroll on a nature trail, I continually push myself not to be among the first people who back out. The underlying motivator is seldom for exercising reasons.
Almost everything I engaged in felt like a contest— even when it wasn’t. Each waking moment, a profound longing to realize the end goal (the faster, the better) while forgetting to enjoy the process.
Before realizing it, life had become an aggressive chase of one milestone after the other, habitually beating myself up when things don’t pan out as planned. Failing to appreciate the achievements realized this far.
Somehow, all that didn’t feel good enough. The mind turned into a vicious pit of guilt, of things I could have done differently, opportunities taken, and areas I could have invested more.
The joy of each achievement short-lived while formulating ways to be better than the last attempt, if not best.
I’m learning to live in the moment, accept my limitations, and be grateful for where I am.
Here’s to embracing vulnerability and letting go of competition.