Hello all! I am writing this post from a public computer at the National Library of Australia. The main reading room is very quiet, but the keys of the computer I am writing on are embarrassingly loud… and I am only just finishing the second sentence. Before I start unpacking my primary thoughts for this post, which I have already managed to diverge from, I want to reflect on how fortunate I am to be able to walk into a beautiful building like the National Library, to be safe and to have access to a computer and the internet. This might not seem significant, but this is actually a real privilege because many people do not have access to the quality resources and services that I am afforded. Sometimes it can be so easy to forget how fortunate we are. Before you continue reading, stop for 10 seconds and think about some things in your life that you are thankful for.
This may seem like an insignificant thing to do, but having the ability to switch your mindset and intentionally focus on things you are thankful for can be an immensely powerful tool to help you through some really difficult situations.
The main reason I sat down to write this post is to talk about the continual difficulty and struggle I have with comparison. This is something I have battled with for a long time. Comparison is something that takes many forms but can ultimately lead to either self doubt and discouragement or a false sense of one’s worth or ability. We unfortunately have a tendency to compare ourselves with others and then make a judgement of our own self worth based on our perception (whether it be accurate or not). This is dangerous. It is dangerous because someone is potentially going to be put down or let down in the process – either yourself or the other person.
Comparison leads to competition and competition can lead us to self-seeking activities or attitudes. Competition can crush community and create a vacuum, depriving anyone of growth. Competition can stop me from helping you achieve your goals when there may be no perceived benefit to me or if it means you’ll get ahead. I will not deny that competition can be a great catalyst for growth – but it needs to be healthy. Competition should not define you, control you or inhibit you. It must not stop you from supporting or helping others, you must not have a ‘win at all costs’ attitude. Because if you do, you have become a slave dependent on both external validation of your performance and affirmation. You can see a beautiful example of healthy competition in the following video.
Over the years people have commented about how competitive I am. There is a lot of truth to this and as much as I have struggled, and sometimes denied it, there is probably too much evidence in their favour. I can be very strong willed and determined. I am known to set myself arguably audacious goals and push myself to achieve them (often past what might be considered a reasonable point). I have struggled with putting my interests ahead of others, of not lending a hand when I should have. I have had to work really hard to intentionally keep this in check. But a few weeks ago a great mentor of mine helped me to uncover a big blind spot of mine. In the past I had often denied my competitiveness on the grounds that I didn’t think I was overly competitive with others. I worked hard to beat myself. But this can also be dangerous as I discovered yesterday.
I won’t describe the entire situation in great detail because it will take too long, but yesterday I pushed myself way too hard doing exercise. This wasn’t the worst part. Not being thankful for the progress I had made was the worst part. Rather than focussing on the massive achievement of doing more than probably anyone thought possible given my health this year I was fixated on the fact that my body wasn’t performing like it used to. Afterwards, I was discouraged and disappointed and it took the wise words of my beautiful girlfriend for me to realise how much I was living in the past. Jess simply said “stop comparing yourself to who you use to be”.
This has been, and will continue to be, a great challenge for me. Maybe this is something you also struggle with. But I urge you to recognise your current progress. Keep trying new things. Yes – you will fail. But as C.S Lewis so eloquently said “Failures, repeated failures, are finger posts on the road to achievement. One fails forward toward success”. No, I don’t have the strong body I use to when I was competing for Australia. Yes I miss running and ice skating, playing futsal and soccer. But I am no longer in bed unable to lift myself up which was my reality for seven weeks at the start of the year. So I can either be discouraged or change my scope and be thankful. I challenge you to also change your scope.