I smiled as I watched my husband forge ahead of me as we were striding through the bush the other day on our morning walk. Every so often, he looked over his shoulder. I think he was making sure I was still there. In the early days of our relationship, I would have interpreted his gesture as a ‘hurry up,’ signalling I was lagging behind and needing to step up the pace. But we only feel like we are not keeping up, when we view through a competitive lens.
I acknowledge ‘healthy competition’ and how it can motivate us to ‘do’ better and ‘be’ better. Having fun playing sports and working together as a team can be hugely beneficial. If I were back on the debating team at school, I could argue for the affirmative with certainty, but I worry more about the undesirable implications of competitiveness.
We are all tainted by our past, and mine was filled with pursuing excellence. Competing for the first-in-the-year placing in multiple subjects at school, had me constantly trying to live up to ridiculous, self-imposed standards. This left me in competition with my fellow students. There was a ranking at the end of each year that determined whether I was worthy. While ever I harboured this competitive energy, there was something unhealed within me. A belief that I was less than whole.
Why do we compete? Are we culturally conditioned to battle? I believe behaviour motivated by competition comes from a place of scarcity — thinking there is a limit on information and knowledge, which is, in fact, limitless. Comparing ourselves, and not believing we have the capacity to do what someone else can do, only reinforces our own insecurities.
Maybe I was scarred from my past relationships too. One of my exes snarled, ‘You’re not even at competition level’ as we drove to the gym one day. Competing in that arena was the furthest thing from my mind. When any competition makes us feel less-than, or triggers our limiting beliefs about ourselves, it switches from healthy to harmful.
What was I actually competing for anyway? Love. Attention. Kudos. Praise. Acknowledgement. There is always a core need motivating us, and mine was to feel ‘good enough.’ I come from a generation that were ranked. We weren’t taught to value ourselves — we were taught to be good, to win, and to never make mistakes.
Nowadays, my success is measured in a very different way. I feel a sense of accomplishment when I have harmony in my relationships, and when I am healthy and calm. Those are things we cannot compare against anyone else, and if we all receive top marks, what a peaceful world we would exist in. What beautiful energy we create when we encourage each other to achieve greatness in all of these areas.
When we are working towards a goal, we should feel no competition. It’s a pointless distraction to waste time overthinking what others are doing. We are all at a different stage in our health, career and spiritual journeys. There will always be someone ahead, and someone behind. It has no bearing on our worth. We should never compare someone’s years of experience with our first attempt. Success is when we are doing better than yesterday’s version of ourselves.
Those who are achieving, inspire me. They help stretch me to MY full capacity. The people I want in my life are those that pull me up. Supportive people who want me to shine - and I want to be that person for others too. I feel genuine pleasure witnessing others succeed, especially women, and those who have overcome adversity to rise beyond their own expectations. It’s such a connected way to be. To lift each other up and rise together.
And yes, my husband’s legs are longer than mine. He walks two steps to my three — but it’s more than that. His health goals are different to mine. We are all individuals. I walk to clear my head and to keep my body and heart fit and healthy. I know my body better than anyone else and if I push too hard, my knees scream out. I’m going at my own speed now. I don’t feel a sense of scarcity, like I did at school. I’m enjoying the feeling of being competitive-free in many areas of my life. Take a moment to consider whether you are walking your own path?
I believe that our experience of life is altered when we appreciate others as our greatest allies, instead of viewing them as our toughest competitors.
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