I’ve always been a fairly competitive person, sometimes driving people away from me because I turned almost everything into a win / lose situation. I’m almost embarrassed to admit but I treated almost everything in life as a zero-sum game…if you had more, it meant I had to have less. And I always justified it by saying “How else will I know how much I’ve improved? How else will I know where I stand?”
Now, before I go much further, let me be clear. I’m not talking about competitive sports. I enjoy watching and used to enjoy playing competitive sports for the fun of playing the game. Same as when I play games with my kids. There ARE good life lessons to be learned by playing games like Monopoly or something on our game system. What I mean here is the kind of competition that is all too often silent and unacknowledged by the people I’m competing against.
You know what I mean. “I’m thinner than that guy.” “I look better than her.” “She’s so much prettier than I am.” “I’m so much smarter than he is and he still got the promotion.” “I play guitar SO much better than that guy.” Those quiet little competitions we have all the time. Sometimes we call it comparison. But, to my way of thinking, it’s just competition.
Lately, though, I’ve been rethinking that whole proposition. First I started thinking about why it was so important to me to compare myself to others. I mean, from everything I’ve seen, it looks like I’ll always be better that some people at some things and not as good as other people at other things. I’m always going to be thinner than someone, but chubbier than someone else. I’ll always be wealthier than someone but not as wealthy as someone else. I’ll always be a better musician than some people, but not as gifted or skilled as others. So, it seems right off the bat like that type of competition, which I’ve done for as long as I can remember, is nothing short of emotionally suicidal.
I’ve been tossing these ideas around for a few weeks and today I finally came to the conclusion that I just don’t want to compete anymore. At least not with anyone else through these ridiculous comparisons and unacknowledged competitions. Instead, I only want to compete with myself. I only want to compare myself to how I was yesterday. In other words, I want to start asking myself questions like “Am I healthier today than I was yesterday?” and “Am I smarter today than I was yesterday?” and “Am I richer today, in friends, in love, in kindness, in wealth, than I was yesterday?” In that way, I can focus on getting a tiny bit better every day.
And once I stop comparing myself to other people, I’ll actually be able to look at them through the lenses of a love, which I am called to do as a Christian. Seems to me that I’m setting myself up for a win / win situation. I win by not bashing my own self-concept and I win by learning to love other people as they are without worrying anymore if they are better than me.
Will I still enjoy watching sports on TV? Yes. I believe there are many good lessons and some fantastic life drama to be enjoyed by watching athletes compete on level playing fields, testing their skills against others of similar skill and talent level. And competitive sports are not the same type of competition I was talking about before. And I might even begin to enjoy some competitive sports for myself.