I was not guilty of eavesdropping on a conversation carried out by a complete stranger who was shopping next to me in the aisle at the supermarket. But the raised voice with which she answered a call would have inevitably gripped anyone’s attention. Seeming visibly disturbed, she ranted out to the person on the other side, “Had you worked harder, you would have secured the first place, not second. You were way better than your class mate!” I had absolutely no idea what event it was, but it appeared that she was talking to her son or daughter. And without an iota of doubt, she belonged to that league of individuals obsessed with being the best. In place of the congratulatory greeting came the berating of her child.
To strive towards excellence should be the goal of every human being. In order to improve one’s personality, it is imperative that a person works to refine and optimize the inherent skills he or she has. But to be totally fixated with the thought of always being the best can only bring in frustration and disappointment, not to forget the possibility of straining relationships with those around us.
A relative once confided how someone who was “supposedly” her very good friend started giving her the cold treatment ever since her child made it to one of the top Fortune 500 companies. Their offspring were in the same class, and the friend in question could not accept the fact that the other child started off with more promising career prospects than her daughter. Do the ethics of friendship not mandate that you celebrate your friend’s happiness and not sulk? However, these values become secondary to anyone who wants to be in a position towering over others.
Some children go through that unfortunate ordeal of succumbing to the pressure that their parents put on them to excel and be at the top. The stress and tension that they go through can be really detrimental and can only hinder and not foster progress. Encouraging children to perform to the best of their potential is different from setting a yardstick for them to be number one.
Constantly comparing one’s self with others amounts to being stuck in a quagmire. It’s sort of a trap from which it’s difficult to come out free. In this race of striving to rise above others and be the best, there is no finish line. It’s a relentless process and steals mental peace.
We all need to accept the reality that no matter how good we are in any field, there will always be someone who will outperform us. You may be a gifted singer, but another melodic voice might be able to touch more hearts than your soulful melodies. Just because your child had made straight A’s in his entire academic career, it does not mean that someone with a lower grade point average does not have the right to achieve higher professional success. The fact that you have an impressive culinary acumen does not guarantee that the topmost spot in your town’s list of great cooks is by default reserved for you!
I happened to stumble across an article of self-revelation titled “Why Being the Best Is Not the Key to Happiness (And What Is)”. The author Audrey Woods candidly shares how since her childhood she was always engulfed by the desire to be at the top and how contrary to her expectations, the awards and accolades never brought her happiness. In a rather honest confession, she mentions how it bothered her when surfing through Facebook in her low moments, she had begun to feel unhappy with other people’s lives going well. She calls it the evil of her ego. In the race to qualify as the best, she was always comparing herself to others which only brought in misery at the end of the road. Woods finally took to writing not for money, fame, or success, but because it was something she loved from the bottom of her heart. The piece basically rests on the premise that people need to kill their ego and do things they love without comparing themselves to others.
How do we define anything as “being the best”? There are no set parameters. It’s all relative. For instance, someone who you certify as the best writer or best singer may be considered mediocre by another individual, and he or she has the right to stick to that opinion.
As we cruise along the carousel of our lives, we need to immerse ourselves in the continuous process of self-discovery and self-realization. Happiness is a gift that we can bestow upon ourselves. Once freed from the compulsion to compare, an individual opens his window to contentment. The mantra of life should be to stand on the principle to be our best selves, and to try our best without being smitten by the dream to be the best!