So I need to tell you all a secret. Here is the secret to life, are you ready? Here it is:
STOP COMPARING YOURSELF TO OTHERS.
If you can learn to master this one thing in your life, your life will improve in so many different ways, and in ALL aspects. This is the ONE THING that I wish to impart to all of the students at the school. If you gain nothing else from your time with your coaches, at least learn this one important thing. It will carry through to the rest of your life, and hopefully you may impart the same knowledge & wisdom onto the next generation, or your children.
It is very difficult to not compare yourself to others. I too, struggle with the same issue from time to time, for I am a human being too. This is something that will take everyone a life-time to master, so you should start now!
(1) Someone else’s accomplishments do NOT equal your failures. This makes sense when stated plainly as such. However, it is actually very paradoxical in how human beings evolved and how we behave. For millennia, our civilization was built on the idea that “in order to get more resources, you need to take resources away from someone else”. Civilization went on in this manner for thousands of years, and almost every part of the world. Crops and food were limited, and so were coins/currency (because digital currency had not been invented yet). The Feudalistic Age in Europe, with it’s concepts of Lords, Land, Peasants, and Servitude, is a good example of this. If a Lord wanted more food, he would need to take/tax more from his peasants, which directly reduced their own supplies. So you see, it is built into our “human nature” to believe that in order for you to move up in life, someone else needs to be moved down. Luckily, with advancement in technology after the scientific, industrial, and modern revolution, that way of life is no longer true in developed countries. We are no longer in a “zero sum game”. But naturally, as human beings, we still act as we are in the same feudalistic environment….and we apply this behavior to every area of our life. For instance: kids like to apply this to their learning/education. How many of us ask “what grade did you get on the exam?” We tend to believe that if someone else succeeds in education, learning, or performs better on an exam, then it means that I am performing poorly. Sounds silly when stated like this doesn’t it?! Remember: someone else’s accomplishments do NOT equal your failures. Be happy when someone else succeeds! Just because you got a 100 on an exam, you didn’t cause your friend to get an 80, or vise-versa. And in the gym, just because you learned a Double-Back somersault, it doesn’t prevent your friend from doing the same. Your classmate running a 4-minute mile didn’t cause you to run a 12 min-mile! Wishing people ill-will doesn’t do you any favors.
(2) Success is not a Finite commodity. Building off of the previous bullet, we come to this second conclusion: that success is not a finite commodity. In fact, success is not even a tangible resource that can be measured! Thus, it makes NO SENSE whatsoever to try to “hoard” success to yourself. Success is infinite, and as such, just because your friend got a raise at her job today, doesn’t mean that you can’t get one at your job too! It has nothing to do with you! But there are people in this world who pretend to be happy for their friends, yet are actually deeply resentful when their friends succeed. I feel bad for these types of people, for they will always compare themselves to others, and they will never find the true meaning in their lives. They will live very sad and depressed lives until they pass.
(3) The definition of Success is not concrete. Success cannot be standardized. It is hard to measure, and the definition changes from person to person. If you talk to 1000 different people, they will each have a different idea of what success means to them. Thus, you must not worry about others. You need only worry about yourself. There is only ONE of you in this world, there will never be another. Do you really want to compare yourself to 7.5 Billion other people? You will eventually realize that your own definitions of success are permeable, and will change often as you progress through life. And it should! You can’t compare apples to oranges.
(4) Then WHY do we enter Athletic Competitions? Isn’t this kinda hypocritical? Isn’t a competition a direct comparison??? The original aim of sports & competition was to promote learning and sharing of knowledge. The main idea is to use competition as a catalyst to spur growth, innovation, development, concentration, and push athletes to break past their own limitations. We do not use competition to see “Who is the biggest, baddest, and best in town“. Rather, the preparation for and participation in a tournament helps EVERYONE improve their own skill. Thus as a whole, we collectively raise the sport together. We also learn more about ourselves individually. So no, the main purpose of a competition is not to compare yourself to others, if you are looking at it from that point of view, you need to go back and assess your mind-set. It’s not the medals that matter, it’s how much you are improving that matters. The secret is that many Elite competitors & Pros never cared too much about medals and trophies during their journey up the ladder! While it’s true, that competition does get fierce at the upper end of their career, as the stage gets bigger and bigger, such as the Olympic Games. But believe me when I tell you that, these athletes probably didn’t care an ounce about winning or losing on their journey up the ranks. They competed just so that they could LEARN more. Don’t believe me? Looking back, did you really care what grade you got in Kindergarten or First Grade? Doing so is silly, and would be detrimental to your development.
Never compare yourself at school, at work, at the gym, on social media, with your siblings, with your friends, etc. YOU NEED A DIFFERENT FORM OF MOTIVATION TO PUSH YOURSELF HIGHER. And if the previous 4 points didn’t convince you, then here’s a list some bad things that can happen if you compare yourself to your opponents, your teammates, your friends, and the rest of the world:
- Loss of physical control
- Emotional pain
- Self doubt
- Loss of confidence
- Self pity