Do Not Compare Yourself To Others

The pressure to be the best was always in my mind. When I was 7 years old, my parents thought putting me in a swimming class was a good idea. Swimming classes weren’t too fun for me because of the unheated pool, especially for a skinny kid like me. Regardless of the conditions, I still tried to be the best in every aspect comparing myself to everyone else. I was really good for my age, but someone a year or two older than me would always swim faster, dive deeper, and hold their breath longer than me. I would always blame myself for not coming in first or being the best, even if I lost to someone older and more experienced than me. But I was still beating most of the kids in the challenges; some of that could be attributed to my tall, skinny build, which helped me with dives and swimming speed. Eventually, I took an interest in soccer due to my friends always talking about the World Cup. It took a little bit of convincing, but my parents finally gave in to the pressure and signed me up for soccer lessons. Before I even started practice, I kicked the ball around a local park, feeling more and more confident while picturing the plays I would do. I was confident going into my first practice, remembering that I dribbled past a stationary cone the day before, which made me think I was ready for the training session. As I walked onto the field, I saw my coach for the first time. He looked like a 60-year-old tough guy; he didn’t sugarcoat anything but instead did quite the opposite. We started the first drill, and I saw the other kids meticulously dribbling the ball and passing with precision; they looked way more skilled than what I did in the park the day prior, as I started off missing my passes and losing the ball when dribbling, feeling bad because I held up the line whenever things didn’t go smoothly. After a couple of weeks of training, I started to blame myself for not being as good as my peers. Around this time, I found out about a high-level team in my age group by the same organization; this lit a fire under me, and I knew I needed to get on the team to prove my skill. For the next year, I dedicated almost all my free time to practicing for a chance to get on the team. I came to the tryout, my hard work and a little bit of luck paid off, I finally made it onto the team. As I started training with the team, it became clear how much of a skill gap there was, and again, as always, I blamed myself for every little mistake. I compared my lack of skill to the best players on the team every time I got the chance. I lost a large portion of the one-on-ones I had with my teammates, and it was clear I was one of the worst players on the team. When the season started, my team started winning games and dominating other teams; the keywords here are “my team” because I had little to do with it. I was the definition of a bench warmer hoping to get subbed in. My team did so well that they lost in the semi-finals of the state-wide tournament, earning the runner-up title. This caught the eye of a New York professional club called the New York Cosmos. They invited my team to scrimmage at halftime of one of their games that had thousands of people in attendance including the soccer legend Pele, who would be attending. Even though I played pretty well at halftime knowing that Pele was watching, I looked around at the crowd of people and at Pele and knew that I didn’t deserve to be there. Everyone on my team carried me to that position. As the sixth grade came around, I moved schools and joined a jiu-jitsu gym. The coach turned out to be similar to my soccer coach, he was a tough-love type of guy. The coach broke us up into groups, I was with the new kids, and we first learned the very basics, I soon started to get the hang of it. I started sparring with people on my own level, and every day I noticed I was getting better. Now that I was moving through skill groups quite quickly there was no one point or one person to compare myself to but instead, I had to compare myself to myself from an earlier time. Instead of blaming myself for not being as good, I started asking myself if i had improved. This discovery focused my energy on me instead of bouncing it off other people. I started to develop my own style of jiu-jitsu relying heavily on submissions. Before every sparring session, I would always be the first to ask “Are submissions allowed”. Discovering this new way of thinking helped me improve to the point where I could have a good sparring match with a purple belt; I also felt happier focusing on my improvements. I joined my high school’s soccer team and turned out to be one of, if not the, best players on the team. This experience further exposed how silly it was to compare myself to others. The worst player in the soccer club took three years off and then was one of the best at my high school.