Like millions of people today, I have long lived a dangerously competitive life: comparing myself to friends, family, and even strangers. I’m embarrassed to admit that if I were to enter a marathon, I’d do it to try and beat people rather than to take part or challenge myself individually. I’ve laboured under the false belief that this “marathon mentality”, always moving forward, ignoring the niggling pains along the way and racing people to the finish line, would bring me happiness. However, recent events have brought into sharp perspective the fact that sometimes, perhaps inevitably, I will be overtaken at the sprint finish.
When I found out I hadn’t achieved a recent academic goal of mine I went into emotional meltdown (mascara everywhere, whole pack of Kleenex used, Britney Spears circa 2007 kind of meltdown). All I could think was “I’ve been beaten”. Luckily for me, a wise friend stepped in and questioned why I felt the need to compare myself to others.
Reading the Oxford Dictionary definition of ‘marathon’, clarified where my “marathon mentality” was completely, horribly flawed: “A marathon: A long-lasting or difficult task or activity.”
Now, whilst I do hope my life will be long-lasting, the prospect of viewing it as a “difficult task” is fairly grim. The approach I had was purely delusional as the amount of stress it caused (I’m sure many of you can empathize) was not only futile, but also at the expense of my happiness. Comparing myself to others never lead to anything other than resent and disappointment.
Of course it is important to have ambitions and to seek them. However, I’m starting to see the dangers of approaching life as a marathon, as something we have to endure because, before you know it, it will be time to make that sprint to the finish line. It is so important to make the most of today and revel in small accomplishments, enjoy other peoples’ successes, and for goodness sake stop comparing yourself to others. Be you and enjoy taking part in the event of life; it doesn’t always have to be a race!