It's OK to Not Be the Best

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We live in a society that glorifies “the grind” and “the hustle”.  If we’re not working as hard as we possibly can, then we’re not doing enough.   

I used to live by this mentality.  I felt that if I wasn’t the best at something, then I wasn’t good enough.  This way of thinking kept me from doing A LOT of things, and living my life to the fullest.  I was always afraid to try new things, because I knew that I wasn’t going to be great at whatever it was, and I was afraid to get out of my comfort zone.  I limited my growth and said no to possibilities.

It’s only been recently that I realized it’s ok to not be the best, because what does “being the best” really entail?

For me, being the best meant always comparing myself to others.  In trying to be the best at something, there has to be a standard right?  There has to be something we’re comparing ourselves to.  This lead into never feeling satisfied or good enough.  An example of this was when I competed in my bodybuilding show. How I looked had to stack up against 100 or so amazingly fit women.  Throughout the entire prep I felt like I wasn’t toned enough, not skinny enough, my butt wasn’t big enough, my posing wasn’t on point enough, my hair/makeup/tan wasn’t perfect enough.  Even though I was at the peak of my physical aesthetic, I was never satisfied.

In trying to be the best for my competition, I also isolated myself.  I couldn’t go out to eat with friends because I was on a strict diet.  I couldn’t go out after work because I had to go straight to the gym for my second workout of the day.  I didn’t even allow myself to go to family gatherings because I was so consumed with the outcome.

To be the best at something, you have to dedicate everything to it.  It’s not something you can dabble in part time.  You have to put your all into it.  Eat, sleep, and breathe it.  How many hours a day are elite athletes training in the gym?  How often are they saying no to social events?  How often are they thinking/saying anything unrelated to their performance?  How much are they sacrificing?  All so that they can be part of the 1% of the population that can say they’re the best. 

But what happens when the moment passes?  What happens when you’ve tied your identify to that one moment of glory?  Are you going to cling to that moment for the rest of your life?  I’m not saying effort and dedication aren’t things to be proud of, but being part of the 99% of the population that isn’t “the best”, I realized I was holding myself to unrealistic standards.  And the biggest problem was, I was putting my value and self worth in my success.  By just focusing on success and not the journey, I was never going to arrive at happiness.  There was always going to be an undercurrent of agony in thinking “why haven’t I succeeded yet? What’s wrong with me?”

What helped me get out of this mindset was realizing I had to focus on the process itself and enjoy the journey, rather than focus on the outcome.  Rather than feeling like I had to excel at something, I learned to better myself in a general sense by exploring new opportunities and interests.  And the funny thing is, when I did that, success happened anyway as a by product.  When success happened I could celebrate it but it wasn’t what I clung to, because my identity wasn’t tied to it.  

When I tied my identity to something, and then it went away, I lost myself.  I became depressed.  I lowered my self worth.  I didn't know who I was without it.    

To focus on the process and the journey, I knew I had to first accept that it’s OK to not be the best.  The process also had to be sustainable, valuable, and something I enjoyed.  And whatever I did, I had to be in the NOW.   I had to be completely in the moment.  By being engaged in whatever I did, I could pull myself out of the negative thought process of wanting to be in the future and wanting the end result.  And I knew that if I felt disappointment when “failed”, then it was because I set wrong expectations.

By living in the moment, focusing on the process, and accepting that it's OK not being the best, I now experience more fulfillment.  I am not as overwhelmed by new projects.  I do activities that feel authentic to me.  I live with a mindset of abundance, instead of scarcity, and I don't let the fear of the unknown stop me from trying.