By Ipshita Agarwal
Edited by Nandita Singh, Senior Editor, The Indian Economist.
What happens when you outdo the person next to you? You’re one person ahead of where you were before, but you’re still a hundred behind. So you outdo the next person and the next one, and soon your life becomes about outdoing everyone around you. Slowly, that’s all you think about, all you work for. To beat X, Y, Z and every A, B, C, and in one moment, you do succeed. You’re first in a large group of people, you’re proud of yourself, and then you remember all such universities in the world and all the people who must be standing first there. Suddenly you realize that you have to compete with them in the real world, and so what you achieved right here isn’t a big deal. You start to tell yourself that this was just a fluke, you’re no good, and everyone around you is far better at everything than you are. You study for your exams without a target score in mind, because all that drives you is the need to score more than the person who outdid you the last time. Other people and their achievements and fallacies become your roadblocks and your motivation.
When you sat for your Board exams, all you ever wanted was a 95%. A nice decent 95 and you’d be proud of yourself. What you do end up with, is a 96! You beat your target score by one whole percentage point, but wait, does that make you happy and proud of yourself? Well, there are still hundreds of kids out there who scored a 97 or a 98, so you’re still behind. Suddenly, what should have been a moment of personal victory and achievement becomes a lament about how you’ll never make it to the top colleges like all those other people out there. You don’t for a moment think, “Did I work as hard as they did?” or “They probably deserve it because their personal targets were higher” or “I’m happy I achieved what I’d set out to achieve”. For you, it becomes yet another war you’re waging against the world. However, if you really disliked being behind the others, shouldn’t your target have been well above a 95%? Shouldn’t you have worked harder?
We’ve all become so used to freebies in our lives – we want to give less and get more. Give less love, get more; study less, get more marks; work less, beat the one who worked harder. We’ve stopped asking God (or whatever natural force you believe in) for results that match our potential and hard work, instead we ask Him to make us top, make us the prettiest, the smartest. It’s not about working for yourself, to satisfy yourself and what you’re worth; it’s about doing whatever everyone else is doing and doing it better than them. We’ve given everyone else’s goals and achievements so much attention and space in our lives that we’ve forgotten about our own. We’ve forgotten that we’re not sitting for that exam or trying out for that football team ‘for’ someone else – parents, teachers, or friends. We’re doing it for ourselves. Not to prove to the world how worthy we are, but to help us get where we want to be. We’ve forgotten about living for our dreams and passions, and instead others’ dreams have become our own. If X, Y and Z want to be an investment banker, we think this must be the ‘dream job’ since everyone seems to want it, and it gives you a big, fat paycheck. Down the drain goes your passion for your dreams and everything YOU wanted to do with your life, as your aim becomes about doing the ‘best’ thing that there is to do, this word being defined not by what it means to you, but by what the world thinks it is.
Too often, we value ourselves too less. Too often, we’re not living our lives; we’re living an emulation of the life that we think we want to live, the life we think is the ‘best’ life there could be. Competition becomes about beating everyone around you, outdoing each and every person. The most profound and useful competition, however, is that with yourself. When you think you can’t work anymore, but still working for fifteen more minutes – that is beating your competition. The most profound achievement is attaining the drive to want to work for yourself and not for the expectations of a million people, the desire to lie at night and be at peace with yourself, and not focus on how you’re going to be better than some other person the next day.
If only, we started living more for ourselves and less for others, by others parameters, and at the whims of others; we would not only outdo ourselves in ways unimaginable, we would have also come a long way in respecting ourselves for all we are worth.
Ipshita is a second year student pursuing B.Com Honors at SRCC, Delhi University. She loves to read, interact and network. Books are her first love and she dreams to set up a chain of bookstores around the globe. Writing is her passion and she is particularly interested in the fields of public policy, politics and international relations. She aspires to build a career in public life and take up writing as a medium to bring change.