Your mental competition isn’t making you a stronger person

“We’re at Penn Social, come down.”

It was 6 p.m. on a Saturday and I had not gotten shit done all day. I mean, I literally had not done a single thing all day.

Ok I lied. I woke up and ran. That was my lone win for the day.

Usually, I follow the domino effect. If I start my day off right, I will continue that progression through the day. So you’d think starting my day off with 8×400 on the track would result in a productive Saturday. Instead, I spent my afternoon trying to decide what to do, and ended up doing nothing.

I texted my friend Paula: Dude I cannot get any shit done today. And now it’s 6 p.m. and I haven’t done anything.

My phone buzzed. “What exactly were you expecting to get done?”

Well there was an excellent question.

I had no idea. I just felt I wasted my day and somewhere, someone else was accomplishing 1,000 different things. That left me feeling at a disadvantage, one step behind. So instead of joining my friends, I felt obligated to stay home and salvage my day—by balancing my checkbook or something.

I haven’t balanced my checkbook since 2008.

I’m pretty sure 90 percent of our insecurities are due to competitions we make-up in our own heads. I felt guilty for not having a productive Saturday because I was picturing friends, colleagues, and people I barely knew being more productive. I was allowing myself to feel envious of them, and critical of my own work ethic.

I was being really, really stupid.

Sometimes I’m terrible about taking my own advice. If a friend had been having the same mental battle I was having, here’s what I would have said:

  • It does not matter how fit or out-of-shape your friends are, it will not get you to the gym.
  • It does not matter how much money your former classmates make, it will not get you a raise.
  • It does not matter how much weight your colleagues gain or lose, it will not make you burn calories.
  • It does not matter what your family members do for a living, it will not change your career.
  • It does not matter where or how your friends live, it will not change your apartment.

And it certainly did not change how I spent my Saturday. If I chose to spend my Saturday on the couch watching Amazon Prime, then that was on me. I knew I could have accomplished more in one day. I knew I could have written a few blog posts, done a little meal prep, or ran a few errands. I didn’t (clearly), but that had to do with me, and only me.

I love competition. I think competition is healthy. But there is one big fat line between a live playing field, and psyching yourself out inside your own head. When you compare yourself to others, know two things:

  1. The person you are competing against has no idea a competition exists. They’re ahead because they stopped worrying about what everyone else was doing, and worried about themselves.
  2. Every minute you spend thinking about another person is a minute you could have used to focus on yourself. In that way, they win—every time.

I couldn’t get my afternoon back, but I did have the entire evening to spend however I wanted. I could either join my friends and have a guaranteed good time, or I could lose my afternoon and my evening.

I grabbed my wallet and walked out the door.

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You have flaws. You f-up on a daily basis. And that should be ok.