It doesn’t matter who your archnemesis is, real or imagined. You need one to put fire under you. As humans we are naturally wired (by a capitalist society) to compete with the next person. Men do it when they are peacocking and women do it for the attention of men (according to Chimamanda.) Even in science, you have the test subject and another one for control.
Behind every win there’s a person you wish you could parade that win in front of. That person is your rival. It’s not a bad thing. Motivation is motivation. If it works for you, great. I saw this really great concept on Netflix’s What/If (episode 5) starring Renée Zellweger, she throws a black tie event and invites rivals to attend. Each guest is paired up with their rival career wise. She argues that rivals are what we need to keep us sharp and honestly, I agree.
Entrepreneurs and self-help books would rather we compete with only ourselves. Whether our past selves or our past achievements. “My only competition is in the mirror.” It sounds nice but is it enough of a drive? I wonder if Olympics’ athletes are competing to beat their best time or the world record? I, personally, would be racing to break the world record. There’s no medals for your personal record, unless you hold the world record already.
My competition is poverty because I wrestle not against flesh and blood. The thought of lack terrifies me. If my child ever came to me hungry and I knew that there wasn’t any food in the house, that would break me. I like convenience. Financial freedom affords me that convenience (see what I did there?) I stopped racing with other people because all our races are different. We will never be on the same track, but if you have a car, then we will never be in the same lane.
Will there ever be a world without competition?
I hope so. But what would we call the rat race then? The mentality that there can only be one winner or that there’s only one medal for the first place has been detrimental to the development of some industries. Women are made to compete other women for a seat at the table. Why can’t we extend the table and make room for more women?
I love that Instagram has taken away likes, it’s a huge step towards a less competitive, less triggering, social media. I’m not going to reinstall it because my problem wasn’t with likes, it’s with the actual pictures themselves. If the owner of the account can still see the likes in the backend, have we really solved the problem? Especially those who get their validation from the number of likes. I guess we still need to be able to measure reach and metrics somehow.
We need healthier competition in our lives. This will push us to be better and to do better. If we stop striving to be the best, then what do we have left. We’d be complacent and content with things the way that they are. The scarcity complex is causing stampeding and mental health issues. So what, my sister did well in her mock exams this year? I’m happy for her. As a parent, when you compare your children, you are aggravating toxic sibling rivalry. That deep-rooted resentment you’re sowing amongst your kids will rip the family apart. Most people have their disappointed parent’s voice in the back of their heads tearing down everything that they do as their rival. I hope you find healing.
Who is your rival and how do they push you to pursue excellence?