Competition. It used to be a word that brought me to challenge. A word that fired me up to push further and work harder than usual. It brought a smile to my face. I’ve always had a competitive streak and have used competition to motivate me.
Lately, That’s All Changed
Competition now causes my heart to race, my breath to quicken, and my chest to feel tight. It causes me to tense up and start to question everything around me. Just knowing that some sort of competition is involved makes me want to lock myself in a room and cower under a blanket. I actually feel sick to my stomach.
Why the change? Why does the thought of competition now make me feel nauseous?
As I sat at my kid’s sporting event this weekend observing between games, I realized our lives are all about competition! We are bombarded with all the ways we can compare ourselves to those around us. Just think of all the top ten lists out there – the ten most attractive people alive, the most valuable players in sports, the schools with the highest SAT scores, the best family vacations to go on, and the lists go on and on and on.
The Competition is Too Much
This weekend I listened to parents ranking the kids on the team from best to worst, oldest to youngest, biggest to smallest. I heard them trading college acceptance stories and discussing what school was better – both for sports and academics. I listened to teams discuss the best and worst players, coaches, and even ranking the jerseys worn at the tournament. The desire to compare and compete touched nearly every conversation I heard – from skill to appearance to training to food choices.
After a while, I realized that all this talk has infiltrated my brain. It’s this competitive lens that I’m viewing everything through. And this constant competition is not leaving me in a good place. Theodore Roosevelt said it best, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”
The idea that we are judged and are judging others in everything we do, as if in some sort of sporting competition, is sad. We are judged and ranked as moms, spouses, colleagues, neighbors, and as parents. It just never ends. Our lives feel like one big competition with lots of different events.
But, as I sat there watching my kid play, I realized that although this world of constant competition had sucked me in, I didn’t have to live there. I could choose to be better. This competitive nature didn’t have to run my life and rob me of my joy.
So today, I’m choosing to be intentional about my thoughts; catching my judgments and comparisons – realizing when I’m making it a competition and it really isn’t. The first step is admitting you have a problem, right?
I’m choosing to celebrate, not compare. I’m choosing to focus on the value of people and not how I rank against them. Finally, I’m realizing that life isn’t always a competition no matter what the world tells us. I’m a work in progress. And in the end, I don’t have to be better than anyone else at anything. I just have to work to be better than I was yesterday. I’m saying goodbye to constant, unhealthy competition and hello to joy.