Being the best
Being the best
Tuesday, 07 July 2020
We live in a competitive world, where comparison is everywhere. It’s often present in school or college, with test scores, on the sports field or in relation to social status.
There can be a focus on ‘being the best’ while we are ranked and compared to those around us.
At school or in college there is often competition, with exams designed to assess our academic ability. Ratings can be compared to every other person our age in Ireland.
Although there are plenty of non-competitive exercise options, sports can come with pressure and a focus on winning. Even in non-competitive activities, such as the gym, we are encouraged to try to get a ‘personal best’. We might focus on doing more weights or improving our time, in competition with ourselves to be our best.
Online and on social media, we can usually see how many followers/friends, likes, or comments another person receives. We often compare our social media numbers to those of others. It can become a habit of looking at posts and wondering why some got more support than others. What stories are we telling ourselves about success and failure?
The good side of competition
With competition and comparison all around us, it can be hard to avoid getting sucked into the rating and ranking game. However, it can be helpful to know where we stand in relation to others to understand what we need to do to progress.
Competition itself is not inherently ‘bad’. In fact, competition can be motivating and encouraging. It can help us achieve our potential. We can reap the rewards for our efforts. Indeed, competition, and particularly winning, can be fun.
Where is the pressure coming from?
When thinking about the pressure to be the best, it can be helpful to understand where this is coming from. Perhaps the pressure is external. We have teachers, coaches or parents pushing us to be number one. Is it possible to recognise their motivations? Are they trying to be encouraging? Would they be disappointed if we lose, despite trying our best? The way in which we view pressure from others and the motivation behind it can shape how it impacts on us.
- If you feel that pressure from others is unhelpful, consider talking to them about this. Let them know how the pressure affects your performance.
Perhaps the pressure to succeed is an internal we are putting on ourselves. What are we telling ourselves? Are we valuing ourselves based solely on our achievements and being the best? If we don’t succeed, does that mean that we are unlovable or worthless? What’s the worst that can happen if we aren’t the top of the class or the best on the field? Can we allow ourselves to take the foot off the pedal?
- Remember, no one can be the best at everything all of the time. Listen to the stories we tell ourselves about success and failure, winning and losing. Do we say things to ourselves we would never say to a friend or teammate? Read more about managing self-criticism.
Getting a balance
A little bit of pressure or competition can help us to achieve but too much can be harmful. Sometimes, we can make more mistakes because we feel under pressure. These mistakes wouldn’t be the end of the world under normal circumstances, but because we’re so focused on being the best they can seem catastrophic.
- When it comes to competition, it is important to maintain a balance. Try to ensure you are competing on a level playing field and keep the competition in perspective.
Being knocked off the top spot
If we define ourselves purely on our achievements, it can be damaging for our self-esteem when we can’t achieve what we set out to do. If we are constantly comparing ourselves to others, we can feel badly affected when we no longer measure up. We see examples of this at Jigsaw when young people move from one situation, where they were the best, to a new situation where the competition is different or stronger. This could be moving from primary school to secondary school or from school to university. Someone who was the top of their year can find themselves at the middle of the table, which can be disheartening.
Another time when we see the negative impact of just focusing on achievements is when someone can no longer do the thing that they were good at. For example, an athlete becomes injured and can no longer run. If their self-worth was based primarily on their achievements as a runner, it can be very challenging when this is no longer possible.
- To try to avoid this, we need to take a rounded view of ourselves. Consider both the outcomes and the efforts we put in to what we do. Place value on our characteristics, how we behave and the choices we make, as well as our achievements.
Being good enough
There are many factors that impact on how well we do. Our environment and the amount of demands that are placed on us can all have an impact. Internal factors such as our energy levels, physical and mental health also play a role. It could be a situation where we try something new and we’re not ‘the best’ compared to others. Rather than trying to be the best, we can shift our mindset to aiming for being ‘good enough’.