Continuing the Undoing Series, I wanted to talk about our obsession with competition, even for things we don’t actually need or want to “win” at. As the title suggests, I mean how we compete over who has it worse! It’s ridiculous, right, but I bet you’ve said the following before:
Well I didn’t sleep at all last night because I have a newborn, so try being me!
Oh yeah, well I have shoulder pain, leg pain and hip pain!
You worked for 8 hours? Try working a 12-hour shift, on-call, plus overtime! I’m way more stressed than you are!
We want people to know that we sleep less, feel more physical pain, and work harder. Why? Because it’s impressive to be who we are despite our struggle? Perhaps. But I also think that when we feel like we’re not winning in other ways, so we feel this need to “win” by having more pain or struggle compared to others.
Bottom line: we all want to feel like we are winning, no matter the “competition” we feel we’re in.
Crazy, right? But actually so true that it’s scary.
Where does this need to compete come from? I think it’s to do with our ego. How we identify. Sadly, we often identify with our struggle. I’m a bad writer. I’m a struggling single mother. I’m an uneducated, entry-level worker making little money. We identify this way and therefore find it hard to detach from this thing we identify with; this pain we apparently don’t want but struggle to let go of.
Because who are we if we do?
We defend our problems, weaknesses, and struggle as if we want them but constantly complain about having these things in our lives. I know someone who seems deaf to any positive beliefs about who they are. Like yes, you struggled with X thing, but you did it, go you, remember that! And they’re like, nah, I struggled and I will always struggle. But why defend this weakness or fear as if you can live without it? If there is another truth to believe?
Because if I don’t protect my weaknesses, who am I and what can I do? I no longer have an excuse not to do things…
This is hard to accept but I think it’s true for a lot of us. If I’m not a struggling writer, then I have no excuse not to write and publish. If I’m not a tired, overworked employee then I have no excuse not to work on myself and my goals. If I’m not a martyred mother, I have no excuse not to be something other than a mother.
Harsh, yes, but true.
We are our own worst enemy. Self-sabotage is the greatest form of sabotage because let’s be real, we aren’t living in a movie where people are out to get us and foil our plans of becoming successful! The biggest baddie in our lives is ourselves.
And so, we self-sabotage by defending our pain and competing with others for who has it worse! If we focus on who has it worse, we get to excuse ourselves for not being where we want to be in life.
These competitions, no matter what they are, are simply a distraction from the things we actually care about and want to do.
If we reverse things and pretend it’s not a competition about pain but instead other things like our goals or success, are these competitions meaningful? Perhaps. If you are inspired and motivated by competition, then go ahead! Compete. Tell yourself that someone else is working harder than you in order to get yourself up off your ass and get working. But…
You need to know yourself. You need to know what is motivating versus what is hindering your progress and depleting your energy.
I am a competitive person. I used to be an athlete when I was younger, so this makes sense. But there are a lot of times when this has been unhealthy. Where I can’t have fun out at bowling or darts or golf because I want to win so badly that I become desperate and bitter. I’m stealing from myself because I’m in a competition that I don’t need to be in. I know that if I just have fun, it’s a better time with people I care about, and not to mention the fact that I’ll probably perform better because I’m not taking it so damn seriously and psyching myself out!
Lastly, I would encourage you to begin to notice when you feel the need to compete and defend yourself.
Who are you with when you put your guard up and get the big guns out?
This is often because of the fear of judgment or shame. You’re ashamed of yourself for calling yourself a writer yet struggling to write anything, and so you get defensive and begin to compete. I didn’t write today because I didn’t sleep and I have a child to care for and you don’t!
But ask yourself whether that person is actually judging or attacking you. If they are, maybe talk to them honestly about it and how it makes you feel (if it’s someone you care about). If it’s someone you don’t care about, then practice the art of walking away in order to protect your inner peace. We can get defensive and feel attacked when in reality, it’s our shame triggers at play here making us feel attacked when no one is in fact looking to harm us.
- Ask yourself why you are defending your problems and pain; what meaning or purpose does it serve?
- Ask yourself if you’re actually in a competition and if you can decide not to be
- Ask yourself if competition gives you energy or takes it away
- Ask yourself when you feel the most competitive, who with, and why?
- As I mentioned in my jealousy podcast episode, can we ask those who are “beating us” in life for help on how to be as successful as they are?
- Ask where the competition came from and ask if maybe you were put in a race that you don’t want to be a part of!