Is being in competition with yourself healthy?

We often have a Monica Gellar tendency to be in competition with ourselves as well as other people – to look back and compare where we are now to where we were last year, two years ago or even worse, where we thought we’d be. 

I personally do think about where I was a year or two ago. I don’t really compare myself to other people, as when I did that when I was younger it sapped the life out of me, made me bitter and resentful. It’s a really unhealthy habit, that we all too easily get sucked into.

Also, as a result I never really moved forward in ways that I wanted to as I was focusing on what other people were doing rather than what I was doing. 

Now, I am very focused on what I’m doing. I’m super proud of my friends and don’t ignore what they’re doing, I just focus my energy into my projects as opposed to what they’re doing. But this does add an element of competition with myself. 

Sometimes being in competition with yourself is helpful, if you’ve been working to improve at something such as your mental or physical health, or a skill such as running, playing a musical instrument, then it can be quite useful.

Maybe you’ve gone from a novice to being able to run 5k or for 30 minutes without stopping? Well done you! Maybe you now know five chords on the guitar and can play a whole song? You’re acing it! 

On the other hand, there’s the big milestones in life that can often used as competitive markers such as moving out, buying a house, being in a relationship, getting married, owning a pet/plant, having a baby, getting your dream job, achieving big successful shiny things. 

I was dwelling on my progress recently as it was two years since my graduation. I’ve written about falling into the comparison trap before, but I never really thought about how comparing yourself to previous versions of you can have the same effect as comparing yourself to others. 

I began to think “I was so much skinnier here” or “I felt so good here” and what began as a self-reflection, quickly became a negative comparison. 

Or my favourite, “I had more of a social life there” then I realised, oh wait, it’s a global pandemic, that’s why I haven’t been socialising or travelling with my pals. 

When you’re in competition with yourself and compare where you are now and where you were then, you ignore the context; in both scenarios you were doing the best you could to deal with the hand that life dealt you at the time. 

Being in competition with yourself shouldn’t be a chance to beat yourself up, or compare yourself to others as reflecting on your own growth is more of a learning exercise. It should show you what is important to you and what you want to achieve or an area you want to continue to develop in. 

If you’re beating yourself up, you won’t have the focus or energy to actually make the progress you want.  

I do like to check in think about what I’ve done over the year, where I’ve been, what I still want to work on etc. It’s helps to identify what’s missing in your life and what you still want to do. 

You’ve got make self-reflection a positive experience to make sure you only have the benefits of being in competition with yourself. 

Being in competition with yourself can be healthy with the right approach, such as the following prompts:

What have you learnt since then?

This doesn’t have to be in academic terms. Perhaps you’ve learnt what you’re looking for in a partner, your favourite cheese, how to make your favourite cocktail at home, that having a small group of genuine friends is more important to you than having lots of flaky ones. 

Or you might have learnt to be a guitar-playing, yogi-inverting, chef extraordinaire. In which case, hats off to you! 

What have you experienced since then?

Even if this experience didn’t work out how you wanted, what have you experienced in the last year or two?

It can be big or small – somewhere you visited, a new restaurant you tried, a concert, new friends you’ve made, a new job etc. 

What would former you be surprised that you’ve done?

One of my favourites. I bet a year ago you wouldn’t have thought you’d do half the things you’ve done this year. What would genuinely surprise you if someone went back in time and told you a year ago what you would do next? 

Has your big dream changed?

Knowing what you want in life is amazing clarity to have, but as we grow it tends to evolve into something new. Has the big dream changed for you? What does it look like now?

In the next year, what is the big goal? 

I think a great mindset to have when setting goals is that even if you don’t or haven’t achieved it yet, the fact that you’ve set it out as a goal means you’re closer than you would be if you hadn’t set your sights on it. 

Reflecting on your life is a reminder that life goes quickly, unexpected things happen and you will grow in ways you can’t even imagine, so don’t beat yourself up and search for the positives!

How do you navigate self reflection? Are you in competition with yourself?

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  • Hannah says:

    I love this post and I love that you included questions to ask yourself to reflect back on the past year in a positive light rather than a negative light. I think everyone is guilty of comparing themselves to someone else and/or themselves at some point but I think turning it into a positive thing is something that we should all be doing, to challenge ourselves to do better and be better. Looking at the photos at the beginning of this post, I can definitely see how much happier you look within yourself and I hope that you can see that too. xx

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