Ever since we were young, we've been taught to be competitive. Life is a competition, and it's your responsibility to be better than everyone else. Parents, teachers, and our own peers have drilled that mindset in us, and it seems almost impossible to break out of it. Now, before I begin, I should clarify that I am not naive. I know it's a dog-eat-dog world out there. The real world is cutthroat, critical, judgmental, and harsh. To be successful in a world where the bar of skill and talent keeps rising exponentially, a fair amount of healthy competition and selfishness is necessary.

However, amidst the paranoia, we forget to compete with the one person that matters the most. You. I've learned the hard way that you will never be satisfied until you stop comparing your growth with that of anyone else. The more you focus on how much you've grown and improved from your past self, the better and more accomplished you'll feel about yourself. Everyone has different ambitions and priorities. We each have different definitions of success and different means of achieving it. It doesn't make sense to go around comparing ourselves when we weren't even in the same race, to begin with.

You can spend hours and hours reflecting on what you lack.

What am I missing that my counterparts have?

Why does their life seem so much more put together than mine?

Why did they hit the jackpot in their looks and body?

Why do they have so many more friends than I do?

Why are they so much more successful than me?

Why does their life look so easy and effortless?

I'll save you time right now and tell you that you will never be able to answer those questions objectively. In other words, if you're asking yourself those questions, you are probably feeling bad about yourself. Their success and happiness bring out your own insecurities. It's okay, it's natural to feel that way. Most likely, you'll tell yourself that you're not as smart, good-looking, and outgoing and it's all your fault. You'll convince yourself that you don't have their life because of what YOU lack.

But, that's not the best way of looking at it. Consider the possibilities.

They just might have gotten lucky. As unfair as it may seem, some people are born with godsent looks and a silver spoon in their mouth. Why spend the time feeling bad about their luck when you can work hard for your dreams?

They might have had to overcome the toughest of challenges to get where they are today. Their route to success might have been vastly different than yours. They might have different priorities. And then most importantly, they probably have their own insecurities and problems.

A lot of the time, we don't give value to other people's problems, especially when those problems seem "insignificant" compared to yours. You've probably thought to yourself, "I'd trade your problems for mine any day." Here's the thing: if you try, you can objectively rank the severity of everyone's problems, and maybe even dismiss certain ones with an eye roll and a smirk. But, problems aren't objective. Their problems aren't undermined just because people around the world have it worse. Everyone is affected differently by certain issues, insecurities, and experiences that you don't and maybe never will comprehend. In their life, their problems are the lowest lows they've ever gone through because they've never experienced anything worse. Don't waste your time comparing what's worse because regardless of the what the problem is, it has in some way, shape, or form taken an emotional toll on all of us.

Instead of summing other people's success to an analysis of what you're doing wrong, expend that energy to learn what you are doing right and what you could be doing better. Learn to admire what others are doing right without feeling insecure. It's beneficial to seek inspiration and learn from others, rather than pick out your own flaws. You are on a path unlike anyone else's. No one has had the same experiences, influences, and feelings that you have had, so why would you want to follow their recipe for success?

When I wanted to do better in school, I chose to focus on how I could improve my grades and which study habits worked for me, rather than on beating my peers on the next exam. When I wanted to lose weight and get fit, I focused on my weekly progress based on my diet and exercise routine, rather than feeling insecure every time I saw someone skinny. When I felt lonely and sad, I disconnected myself from social media, rather than feeling jealous of how popular and happy everyone fronted to be online. When I felt insecure about myself, I always found ways to work on myself, rather than cry and complain about everyone else who had it better than me.

I know that there are people around me that are far brighter, smarter, more social, more attractive, and more talented than I am. I admire them, learn from them, and from time to time, feel insecure when I compare myself to them. But the majority of the time, I choose to focus on myself. After all, if life is a race, why would I waste my time sadly watching everyone else living their best lives? It's counterproductive. I'd rather shut everyone else out when it comes to self-improvement. It's called SELF-improvement and that's the only person it should involve. Sure, learn from others, but don't get caught up in striving to be as competent as someone else is. Your bar of success shouldn't be limited to one, a few, or any number of people. Strive to be as successful as you can be, and you won't have anyone else to worry about. You'll be a lot happier and feel a lot more confident. Life has many challenges, but the hardest one is figuring yourself out. There's only one you, and it makes a whole lot of sense when you're the only contender in that race. And you know what the finish line is? When you finally become the best version of yourself.