I realized something valuable about pushing oneself to be better, to be the best. The realization is not ground-breaking, but it's something that I need to understand and internalize. And I internalize best by talking and writing about it.
I think it's natural for everyone to want to push ahead of the crowd. This spark of ambition is required for survival, and it fosters healthy competition. However, over the years, I have come to resent this urge within me that constantly nags me to get ahead and be better, because I've been losing inner peace and failing to realize a feeling of contentment despite anything I do. There's always a voice within me that says, "It's still not the best". Previously, I used to be perpetually flustered that I was lagging behind, not doing the best, and therefore thought I was failing. I wanted to be perfect at everything. As everyone knows, perfectionism is the evil that puts an end to every dream and attempt. I was afraid to try anything because I was discontent that I was not doing the "best". So I did what I always do best - retreat inside myself. Opportunities passed by me, and I was safely cocooned inside telling myself I would anyway not be the best, so why even try? I realized that my very ambition came back to hurt me, and I ended up doing the exact opposite - not nurturing an ambition at all to save myself from the fear of competing and excelling and being the best.
Now, after lessons learned, I have tried to strike a balance between ambition and perfectionism. But only very recently, did I realize something significant that altered the way I was dealing with perfectionism, and being and doing the best.
There's a difference between being "THE best" and being "MY best". MY best might still not be THE best ever, it might not even be someone's idea of being "acceptable", but it is the best I can be. And I have finally understood this and embraced this. I'm now trying to accept it at every phase of my life. I now know when I did my very best, and when I did not. Some self reflection has taught me my own limits, and that no matter how hard I push, after a point, I am who I am, and my improvements in certain areas can only be a minor increment that perhaps will not count in the grand scheme of things. However, realizing and filling in the gaps within yourself to be your very best is the most rewarding form of self-actualization.
Watching the Winter Olympics taught me this. I had never paid so much attention to the Olympics ever before. But this year, as my own insecurities, anxieties, and uncertainties were whirling inside me, I have been observing people all the more. I was more interested in the hundreds of people that did not win anything at the Olympics. Seeing all the athletes that dedicated their lives to being their very best at a sport lose the medal over fractions of a second or a few seconds, tore my heart. I marveled at their spirit, for trying and continuing to work hard despite knowing the incredible competition they faced, despite realizing the possibility that they would not win. They did not do what I would have done - throw down the towel and say, "What's the use? Why bother? I am not the best anyway". However, they still pushed themselves, they still vowed to dedicate four more years of their lives to grueling training even if it meant they might never win. It warmed my heart to see the genuine smiles and happiness on the faces of those athletes that did not win, but were proud that they showcased their personal best at the Olympics. What makes them do it? Passion, a realization for what they can do, actualizing the best they can ever be?
We cannot all be winners or the world's best at everything we do. The world is large, and the talented people in it are astounding. Even if we are not the ultimate best at what we do, it does not mean we are worthless. It's only realistic to aim for our personal best and to keep improving ourselves in areas where we recognize room for growth within ourselves; this room should not be measured against everyone in the world or the best in the world. Such a gap is far too huge to close by everyone. Besides, is it even possible to truly quantify "best" in the world? It is also just as important to realize when we have hit our limits and to accept them. No use banging on an iron door with no key or tools. A sloth can dream and train and practice and work hard, but he will never be a leopard. We are who we are. Cultivate those aspects where your limits stretch out far and beyond. You may still not be the absolute best at it, but make use of the skills you have to try and push the fringes of the limits as much as you can.
Now that I have realized my limits, I need to make sure every work that I do is taken right up to the frontiers of my limits, of my own very best. That's the best that I can ever do. Then, I should sit back and let the Universe take its course. Whatever is the outcome, I should have the magnanimity and equanimity to accept it and be content with the knowledge that I did my best. And bask in the contentment of actualizing the best in me.
It's great to strive to be the best you can be, for yourself.