being better than you is not good enough for me

perhaps all the olympic competition has brought this to the forefront, but i’ve noticed an unhealthy trend in how we define our personal happiness, self-worth, goals. competition is healthy, yes. i know that we need archetypes to place ourselves on the spectrum. we need examples of what not to do, of what to do. we need role models. i get it. we need other people to define ourselves. that’s not the problem. i’m not suggesting we take it to such an extreme that we eliminate professional sports and personal choice. i just think as a society/culture/collective group of free-willers we’ve take it too far.

what i find alarming is the part that involves finding satisfaction in being better than someone else. it’s not enough that i make plenty of money. i want to make more than you. it’s not enough that i’m good looking. i want to be prettier than you are. i want to read more books than you have. i want to have a better weekend than you had. we’re not satisfied with being rich, successful, attractive, healthy, learned, content people unless there’s someone near by we can point to and say “i’m doing it all better than that person is.” for some people it’s not even enough to be better than that person. They have to be better than everyone, or at least everyone they know. for some people they’re miserable if someone else is perceived as being more than they are. it’s an epidemic, and i’ve discovered that having a small child, with an entire new set of things to compare and assess, makes it even harder to avoid the impulse to compare and preen.

well, i’m sick of it. it’s to the point that my stomach turns when i see it happen around me and i verbally lash myself when i feel it creeping in. i want to be happy. i want you to be happy. i want it to have nothing to with the relative happiness or success of complete strangers. i don’t want to feel better because someone else isn’t.

i’m trying really hard to avoid the feeling of “and i’m not doing it any more and that makes me better than you” because that sort of masochistic pride is the kind i hate the most. i’m well aware of the hypocrisy/paradox of implying that i’m “better than you” because i’m going to stop defining myself by being better than you, but there has to be a way.

there has to be a way to simply believe “this makes me happy” and i’m going to keep going until that becomes second nature for me.

  • Jim

    A friend of ours was just talking the other day about the Olympic commentators repeatedly saying things like, “ohhh… only a silver. That must be heartbreaking.”

    Are you kidding me?! I just won a silver medal! In the Olympics! When I go back home to Togo, they’re going to name grade schools after me?

    You know what I mean? Why does “top three best in the world” become a disappointment unless it’s “top one”? Live a little.

  • I use others as measuring sticks rather than trying to rejoice about accomplishing more or doing better. I hate competitive sports for this very reason. Unfortunately I can’t think of too many cooperative sports.

    Of course, my strategy has its own set of problems: I set unrealistic goals and expectations for myself that I cannot possibly live up to – which results in me beating myself up. If only I knew what reasonable goals looked like.