If you’re competing with other people to drive your success, you have already failed. And although failure can be seen as a beautiful thing, since it is the beginning of your comeback story, you actively trying to be better than someone else as opposed to being better than who you were yesterday illustrates an insecurity within you that is far too deep to be healed by an A on a test or a “good job!” by your supervisor.
What’s wrong with internal validation? Nothing. Emotionally healthy people have their own internal validation. That doesn’t mean that people do not get insecure, feel like the weight of the world has existed on their shoulders, strained their back carrying the anxieties of most days, and worry about what’s coming up the pipe line. Through all of these uncomfortable feelings, these people still move mountains. They are guided by their passions, challenged by their weaknesses, and embrace the momentum they have found within themselves. It’s about the journey of getting to where they want to be that has the most impact on who they are about to become, what keeps them motivated, and creates a resilience within themselves that no one can ever defeat. At least that is how it feels for me.
I’m not a pro at any type of psychology. I received my degree in Sociology and Criminology and I still would not even say that I am a pro in that. However, through analyzing my experiences moving throughout a variety Corporate Americas’ nine to fives, seeing co-workers, teammates, friends, and more around me failing at becoming everything they have aspired to be, and even taking the time to address insecurities within myself— I have learned a few things.
When I was younger, around middle school to high school, I thought life was about receiving a degree, getting a good job, paying your bills, and living like that day by day. Additionally, I thought to obtain all of these things, you had to make sure everyone around you liked you. I craved to be liked and would bend myself backwards to ensure that if someone did not like me, how could I change to make sure they did?When I realized I was living for everyone else’s approval, that left a void in me so large that felt impossible to fill…and it was. When living for other people’s approval, I was trying to meet their expectations that align with their values. This created a painful dissonance and separation between what they expected from me and who I actually was. Additionally, it fogged my view as to who I even wanted to be. By molding myself every day to meet the needs, wants, desires, and expectations of those around me – I was constantly tired and at the end of the day when looking in the mirror I had to ask myself: Do you actually like who you are? The amount of times that felt like a trick question was endless because since I was living to please others and competed with others… I didn’t even know who the hell I was. Along with that, I did not know who the hellI wanted to be and how the hellI was going to get there if I kept looking for others approval. So, Freshman year of college, I stopped.
Freshman year of college was a year of rapid growth, immense change, and an intense beginning of the journey to become the person I am now. You will hear me say it time and time again, I hate competition. When I meet folks, who are competing with other people solely because they “want to be better than them,” that is the energy I stay far away from. It makes me uneasy, keeps me uncomfortable, and places the worst taste in my mouth. How far are they willing to go to ensure that they are better than them? What type of behavior are they going to participate in? There is vast difference between those who compete with another person because they feel inspired by that person but still support that person and refrain from participating in toxic behavior to diminish them and those who actively seek to find ways to exhibit to other people that they are better than who they are competing against. The real question those people have to ask themselves is this: Do you like you? Are you proud of you? And if you’re reading that and struggling to find an answer, hesitated to answer, or felt you had to convince yourself that yes, I do like me… this is where the reflection can begin. This is where the support can start. This is where the radical self-love can come forward. When I was surrounded by people who were constantly throwing microaggressions, demonizing communities, speaking poorly of cultural identities different from their own – I had grown exhausted of being a part of it. I spoke out, lost friends, but gained empowerment. When I had settled into what being me meant, I learned that it had nothing to do with those who were around me. It had to do with what I had inside of myself – and I had a whole lot of drive, a whole lot of determination, and a whole lot of “why the hell should I care if people like me if I am standing up for what is right, what I care for, what matters to me?” I learned that our society is already competitive, oppressive, and negative– why am I going to continue and be a part of the trend?
If someone were to ask me what I thought life was about, this is exactly what I would tell them:
Life is not about competition. It is about inspiring, helping, encouraging, and empowering others so we can all reach our greatest potential. If you’re busy trying to do what others are doing solely to be better than them, not finding and learning your own passions to drive yourself forward, or looking for constant validation to fill a void that only you can fill (with the support of counseling, loved ones, and beyond) – you will be filling a pocket with a hole at the bottom of it for years. For me, life is about foundational passion, finding your own personal goals, creating yourself for yourself, and empowering those around you to do the exact same. Although I am constantly working on who I am, who I want to be, and have acknowledged that growth and healing is not linear, I have found that I am living for myself. Understanding how liberating that truly is has been one of the most impactful turning points in my life. Therefore, at the end of the day, when I am doing certain things in my job, in my personal life, or even the classroom… I am doing those things with love, not for it.