You vs. You
You studied so hard for this exam, and you know you’re going to kill it. No one knows the material as well as you do. You’re going to walk into the classroom, ace the test, and walk out with confidence. Fast forward two weeks later, and you’ve gotten a 94. You feel immense pride, and you should; you deserved that grade. Naturally, your eyes wander over to your neighbor’s paper, and you see he’s gotten a 96. You feel a sting and in an instant, all your happiness is washed away. Your confidence is crushed.
You and your team have a meeting with your supervisor today. You’re discussing the deadlines for your current project. In the meeting, you offer an alternative perspective and your manager nods in agreement. You feel pleased and smile at her approval. Minutes later, your colleague offers an innovative idea, and your supervisor claps and adopts it immediately. In a moment’s time, your satisfaction is wiped away and you sulk at the notion of someone else being more creative than you.
We have all been in a situation where the pessimism we feel when someone else succeeds is higher than the positivity we feel when we ourselves rise. Whether it be at school or in the workplace, we cannot help but compare ourselves to those around us. Certainly, some competition is healthy, for it compels us to push ourselves to our farthest limits. Excessive competition, though, can have perilous effects on our own emotional wellbeing.
However, we compare ourselves to only few individuals and not all. Why? The difference is how we view role models in comparison to how we view our peers. In role models, we find admirable qualities, ones which we wish to have ourselves. In friends, however, observing those same qualities make us anxious. The trait is the same, but our approach is different. To us, role models are not on a comparable level. They have already soared to heights not currently plausible for us, and we feel content looking up to them. In juxtaposition, we find direct rivalry in our friends. Thus, instead of admiration, we harbor bitterness towards them.
What if we shift the paradigm? What if we combine the perception of a role model and a competitor into a single entity? An entity none other than our own selves. As the saying goes, “the only person you should try to be better than is the person you were yesterday”. By working towards our own flaws, we are no more trying to compete against others. Just ourselves. Mastering something that we were not good at yesterday will give us a sense of accomplishment that is not dependent on how others fared.
Simultaneously, we can envision a future version of ourselves, using that future self as an exemplar. Setting our own goals and exceeding them is more enthralling than trying to beat someone else. Such self-improvement has an immense impact on our outlook. By concentrating on ourselves, we take all of that negative energy typically kept against others and transform it into a powerful force that drives introspection and improvement. In turn, idolizing our own future selves as a ‘role model’, albeit unconventional, is both relatable and tangible.
Don’t spend all your time and efforts looking side to side at your neighbors. Focus instead on occasionally looking back, at your old self, to reflect on areas of improvement. More importantly, though, focus on constantly looking forward, at your future self, the kind of person you aspire to be. Whatever that means to you, find inspiration in it, and work on it with all the strength and dedication you can muster. Competition isn’t going away. The reality is, someone will always be a better thinker, a better speaker, a better writer. But no one else will ever be a better you.
Written by: Khyati Gujrathi and Roma Gujarathi