Better Than Yourself

When I was a child, growing up in south London, everything was a competition. You wanted to be best dressed, the most intelligent, the funniest, be great at sport, have the best family, anything and everything that could be in some way compared or measured was a competition. I don’t know if it was a working, middle-class thing, but that was just how it was.
Over the past two generations, competition has been seen as bad thing, encouraging bullying of the less able or talented, perhaps creating mental scars that would forever stunt potential growth. Such has been the push for fairness and that most ambiguous of concepts, the level playing field, that rather than challenge people with their weaknesses, giving them the opportunity to maybe, not become brilliant necessarily, but reach an acceptable level of competence, people have instead been allowed to believe that not being very good is okay.
Before people start bleating that one cannot be good at everything and it is not fair – that word again – to expect otherwise, you’re missing the point. It is not about being good at everything. Nobody likes everything or wants to be good at everything. Some of the things you like you can’t be good at no matter how much you want to be. I’ve always loved football – soccer to my American friends – but in no present reality was I never any good at the game and I really tried. The same can be said for the misguided – some might say delusional – folk who are encouraged to try out their apparent singing talents on reality television singing contest, they sincerely want to be entertainers, in a good way, but, in some cases, only managed to entertain in the worse way, embarrassing themselves for mass amusement and entertainment.
Clearly, it is not possible to be good or necessarily competent at everything. The thing is, the penchant to not have to win or compete is unhealthy, allowing people to believe that they do not have to adhere to any particular standard to achieve anything or, worse still, that mediocre or average is good enough. Sometimes average or mediocre might well be acceptable, but it is no way to approach life.
Human beings need competition, challenges, it is how the species has advanced, it is part of our nature. Docility brings with it a whole raft of problems, encouraging dictatorship and coercion. A non-competitive nature embraces indecision. As much as people like the idea and implicit inclusiveness of democracy, they still want someone to lead, take charge, make the final decision. That person who takes the final decision is allowed to do so because they are believed to be the best qualified for the job. This qualification is usually acquired by being the best and/or most experienced in the field of whatever discipline it might be. Such competence and experience tend to engender a certain degree of confidence, naturally leading to that person leading in their field.
Without competition one does has no need to strive for a high standard or even a very good standard. If competent is enough, why push to be better? The modern like for always maintaining a positive, not highlighting negatives or pointing out foibles, because to do such would somehow oppress or denigrate a person is so much hogwash. Very few of us learn anything from being told how great we are. Having an intrinsic belief, not backed by any actual evidence, that you are better than anybody or everybody else is foolish.
Of course, competition can go too far and the present obsession with all things social media, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, place an unreasonable amount of emphasis on how people look. The arbitrary competitiveness of looking good is not something that can be fairly measured or ever truly equal. Though it may take some discipline and effort to look good, it is also somewhat of a genetic lottery. Some people are just good looking.
Being competitive is not only necessary, it pushes us forward. To improve, be better, humans need to compete. Maybe they do not need a nemesis or a rival, they just need to realise that there is always scope for improvement. In this regard, the only competition there every really is is oneself.

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