Competition. It’s everywhere. Top reality shows are based on it. It’s the foundation of sports. The general idea is that it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there and if you’re not pushing to be #1, you’ll be left in the dust and considered worthless.
In a recent discussion with a friend, we talked about how exhausting competition can be. If you’re not careful, friendships can even be ruined because of it. Social groups seem to always have those who are the most talented or most popular or most attractive…and social media has put a giant magnifying glass on the comparison game due to the non-stop highlight reel of everyone’s lives. It’s so easy to get caught up in the hamster wheel of performance and striving in order to stay competitive.
At one point during our conversation my friend asked “how do you stay out of it when you’re still in it?” She’s a photographer and since it seems as though everyone and their uncle Bob is also a photographer, it can feel hopeless when trying to stand out and make a name for yourself. Photographic styles can be very similar and unlike other fields, there is a lot of gray area for standardization. The competitive element can get fierce. The only options would appear to be 1. Get out completely and choose a different profession or 2. Just realize competition is par for the course and keep on fighting for the lead.
But I’ve contemplated this topic of competition quite a bit lately and I’ve discovered there is a 3rd option: You simply choose not to enter into it.
When Stitch was young we frequented the pug meet-ups at our local dog parks. For the most part, pugs tend to get along well with each other but occasionally a doggy disagreement would happen. It usually started with a butt-sniffing gone wrong between two dogs but within seconds, the herd of other pugs would take off toward the action. (Then the herd of owners would take off to go break it up and bring their dog(s) back to their respective corners)
Whenever these disagreements broke out, we immediately looked for Stitch to make sure he was okay. Thankfully, he never ran toward the fight. Most times you would see him sniffing the fence line or hanging out with the humans. When a fight started, he either ignored it completely or simply looked up from his current sniff inspection to see what was going on then went on with his business.
Life is a lot less stressful for yourself and for those around you when you don’t participate in the rat race and choose to live in contentment vs competition. You might be nodding your head in agreement but are thinking ‘that sounds great but I have no clue how to accomplish that.’
I have a competitive spirit by nature so this is definitely still a work in progress for me too, but here are 5 ways I’m learning to overcome comparison and competition:
1. Make sure you fill your cup with what’s most important FIRST. We think we’re too busy to fit in quality time with God – but if we don’t make it a priority, we’re not connecting to and being filled by our source! If God is filling our ‘love buckets’, then we won’t feel the need to search for love and approval elsewhere.
2. Know who and whose you are. This ties into #1…The only way we can truly know who we are and what we were created for is to be connected to our Creator. When we recognize that no two people on this planet are exactly alike, we can be confident in who we are. The only one competing to ‘be me’ is me…cause no one else can do exactly what I do exactly the way I do it!
3. Be mindful of your influences. Studies have shown that our brain and body follow where the mind leads. So where is your mind leading? What are you allowing to influence your thoughts? It’s easy to feel inadequate when social media and reality shows flaunt excessive wealth and/or success. Or maybe your friends consistently stir the competition pot or often complain about where they are in life. Discontentment breeds comparison and competition. It might be time to shift your inner circle and limit the time you spend surfing the internet or tv guide.
4. Give yourself permission to BE YOU. It might sound weird, but the sea of life can really bounce us around in the waves of what is considered ‘normal’ or popular or what other people think we should be doing. Consciously making the decision to ‘be me’ is the anchor that keeps me from wavering. ‘Being me’ gives me the freedom to keep sniffing the fence line like Stitch while the other dogs ran to fight.
5. Eliminate the mindset of ‘lack’. We compete and compare because we somehow think there’s not enough to go around. That’s not how God’s economy works. We ALL have a specific purpose that is uniquely ours. God is infinite. We don’t have to compete for a finite amount of love or provision.
Competition can be beneficial. It compels us to push toward excellence. It shows us what is possible and gives us goals to work toward. Without it, we’d likely turn into a bunch of lazy couch potatoes ;). But let’s make sure to keep it healthy. Let’s choose to approach competition with the mindset of ‘iron sharpening iron’ in order to further His Kingdom from a position of unity – instead of sharpening our swords to use on each other.
How do you overcome the trap of comparison and competition? Please share your thoughts and methods in the comments below!