Personally, I hate competition.
When I was young, I was on the running team. I was also skinny and light on my feet – it seemed destined that my long limbs were pegged to win medals. But it just wasn’t to be. As I saw Azda (my classmate – who also has these long, crazy limbs) overtake me on the field, that was it. I threw in the towel.
I was also took part in rhythmic gymnastics – and enjoyed it (except for the fact there were a few catty girls) and it was competition sport all right. You’d see who could jump faster, higher, twirl better, and handled their gear perfectly; all while looking nonchalantly perfect in their skin-tight leotards.
I also learned to play the piano, week after week, and successfully reaching seventh grade before I stopped for my high school exams, only to never resume it again. I was relieved though. While I love the piano, having to earn those certificates quickly dissolved any interest I had in pursuing it seriously. And not especially when you have a younger sister who could recognize a note just by hearing it by ear, and an affinity for singling out tempo like no other.
The problem with these scenarios was that I thought I was competing with other people, but as a matter of fact, it was an internal battle instead. I had gone into each sport and field, fully intent on wanting to have fun, but had turned it into a competition instead, and every other person was an opponent that I had to best. And once that thought seeped in, there was no turning back.
So yes, I don’t like competition.
Or if you drill it down, actually the fact is – I don’t like to lose.
So throughout my career, I made sure that I was the best at things, and I made a conscious decision to chose not to pursue things where I would come in second best, no matter how hard I tried. I knew that in my heart of hearts that everything was an experiment, and I wasn’t afraid to go out there and give things a go and see if it’s a fit. And if it’s not? Then I’ll try something else until I find something where there was no competition.
But I found out that this thinking wasn’t all it’s cracked up to be. For one, there isn’t such a field where there isn’t competition. Everything is a competition. And I had to accept that. But I made some internal changes in the way I perceived competition, because other than the fact that being overtaken by someone else is a natural part of life, it doesn’t automatically mean that you’re on the losing end.
Especially when you’re not measuring yourself to other people’s version of what makes one a winner.
Does winning mean getting that dream car? Or that dream house?
Or does it mean getting married at a certain age, or having 2.5 kids?
Or does winning mean ultimately being happy on your own terms, hands caked with paint and smudges of chalk on your face?
For me, it’s about being happy with what I do. Wealth to me isn’t just money, it’s knowledge, experience and passion combined – and I’m lucky to be able to share it with people who care about the same things I do. Now that’s something that can’t be measured against anyone else but myself. And when everyone wins, it’s not a competition. It’s a real fun party.
So here’s my take: not everything is competition sport – especially not life.
Make up your own sport.
And then make up your own rules.
Take whatever nasty (but well-meaning) stuff that bystanders say with a pinch of salt, and let your cheerleaders spur you on.
I guarantee that if you do, you and the people around you will emerge as winners every time.
SHARE WITH ME:
How do you deal with competition? Do you feel that you’re competing all the time, or do you rock your boat to your own rhythm? What has worked for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
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[Illustration by Zara Picken]
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