Being My Own Worst Enemy
Updated: Nov 12, 2019
For most of my life I have been my own worst enemy. I know it's a bit of a cliché saying, but that doesn't mean it isn't true. I came to the fortunate yet unfortunate realization that the biggest thing holding me back is myself. And yes it's partly because of my own irrational fears, but truthfully those fears stem from something much bigger which I am only beginning to confront. I'm a competitive person, I like to be good at the things I do and I like to be right. These are statements most people would agree with about themselves and things that don't seem to be too much of a problem. That was my subconscious justification for the way I saw the world. Everything was a competition and the people who are the happiest in life are the ones who win the most. It's a strange thing to write because outwardly, I don't come across as someone who needs to win. In fact, I consider myself to be fairly laid back most of the time. The reason why my competitiveness has taken such a toll is because I've kept it all in my head. If I really wanted to go full psychoanalyst on myself I would probably have to go back pretty far in my life but that's not really what this is about. Whether it started 10 years ago or 10 days ago isn't important, what's important is what I've done to my thinking and what I'm no longer going to allow myself to do. Seeing everything as a competition kept me from allowing myself to grow or change or make mistakes. When you see the world as a race every person who passes you means you're one place further from first. Instead of celebrating the success of those around me I took their success to mean my failure. If someone else was better at something than I was it meant I wasn't good at all. If someone knew more about a certain topic than I did it meant I knew nothing. Any progress I made was negated by the fact that I wasn't the furthest along. And any interest I had in something new was silenced by the part of my brain that didn't see any point in starting something I couldn't immediately excel at. When you see life as a game you need to be winning, you assume everyone else has that mindset too. If I wasn't good at something I assumed everyone who was better at it saw me as someone they were above. Very few people really think like this I'm sure but by placing my own mindset on others I essentially forced myself to feel inferior. It was a feeling I deeply resented and actively avoided. I wouldn't give myself the chance to try and fail and try again because failing meant everyone would see me as though I was worth less than those who were successful. It's a bit of a sickening feeling to realize that I've been holding myself back from so much growth by seeing life this way, but I'm grateful I realized it now rather than 30 years from now. It's now freeing to know that there is no need to see life as a competition, to compare the success of others to my own success, and failures. It's one of those things I'll always wish I could tell my younger self not to worry too much about but it's lead to an incredibly important lesson. I can only compare myself to who I've been in the past. We're all on different paths moving at different speeds in different directions. To compare my journey to anyone else's would be doing us both a disservice. If I can be better than my past self that's all that matters. In celebrating and learning from the success of others I give myself the freedom to do the things I want to do without fear of failure. Their success is my success and my success is their's. There is no fear of failure because it no longer signifies inferiority it signifies a chance for growth and a chance to be better than who I was. This is not to say that I have suddenly snapped out of this competitive mindset, or that there are zero benefits to a competitive edge. But now it's something I need to remind myself of everyday until it no longer becomes my default mode of thinking. Already I see myself moving away from my comfort zone, allowing myself to be new and inexperienced without feeling so much shame or embarrassment. Of course, it's still early in the process but I've been able to open myself up to opportunities I never would've had before. I'm learning to enjoy what I once would've seen as being in last place. That feeling has been replaced by a sense of wonder and excitement for what's to come, what I have yet to learn, and the person I'm becoming.