Your Competition Isn’t Your Peers, It’s Your Past Self

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

We’ve all been there. You’re scrolling through Instagram or Facebook, and you see a colleague or friend’s post about their life or work and you’re instantly hit with a whole lot of jealousy. Maybe after a couple minutes of quiet seething or frustration you try to turn this jealousy into productivity. Maybe you write a new set of goals or continue working toward one you’ve been putting off. Instead of sitting there with your frustration and doing nothing, you try to use your jealousy to motivate you to do “better.” Seems like a pretty OK way to deal with feelings of competition, right? Maybe even productive or positive? Not so much.

No matter how you justify it, the more toxic and negative energy you put into a project, the more you will suffer for it. The truth is that once you shift how you challenge yourself through the lens of you, rather than everyone else, your work (and, more importantly, your state of mind) will improve. If you’re still a little iffy about that idea, let’s break it down.

The best work for anyone, no matter what field you’re in, stems from authenticity. It is created from and builds from the fact that you are a unique human with a unique set of talents and passions. But if the way you push yourself further in your work or your life is by holding yourself to the standards of someone else, your work can never really be at its best. It will never really feel that good either. This is because it will never be truly coming from you. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t push yourself further in your field, but only to encourage you to reframe how you compete. Instead of looking at that person over there, look at yourself six months ago or a year ago or even a week ago. Note how you are different, and jot down all the things you’ve learned.

No matter where you are on a particular project or how much or little progress you’ve made toward a goal, odds are there is some area that you’ve progressed in. Maybe you mastered that personal website you’d always put on the back burner. Maybe you’ve realized how much more creative you are in the morning versus night and finally gotten into the habit of waking up at 6. Maybe you got a promotion or a landed a big deal. In ways both big and small, when we look at versions of our past selves and note our progress, there are always things to celebrate. Even the hardest, most painful things often teach us things when we look at them in retrospect.

When you adopt this way of thinking, you’ll find is that not only does this motivate you to keep going from a place of positivity rather than negativity, but you no longer feel any sense of negativity or toxicity toward someone else (usually someone who is a friend, colleague, or peer). Now you’ve opened yourself up to keep growing while also allowing yourself to learn from others from a positive, collaborative place. It’s a win, win.

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