From an early age, we are taught the value of "winning." For many people, finding something to be "the best" at was the goal to get into college and to pursue future careers. For others, competitive settings allow for cathartic inner understandings about themselves in order to grow as individuals. However, with competition comes comparisons. When we put ourselves in competitive settings we end up comparing our progress and successes to others. "How are they able to do this or that?" "Bet they can't do this," or "I've already done that."

On one hand, having a competitive spirit can be healthy. The motivation to be better to be above an immediate standard, and the ability to push yourself so that you're contributing to your own personal successes. On the other hand, however, it is really easy to self-evaluate yourself based on the people you're directly associated with. This is not an argument advocating for participation trophies for all my sticklers out there reading. This article addresses how I switched from letting others fuel my motivation and letting my own personal drive lead to my accomplishments. I became my own biggest competition to achieve success, and that isn't reserved just for the "G.O.A.T.S" in our society.

As a musician and former athlete, I understand both aspects and have learned to understand what makes me tick. However, I will honestly admit that I compare myself to others all the time.

As a musician/performer, I have gone into auditions and showcases easily getting wrapped up in the things I see on the surface. "Wow they have a wider range than me," or "Jeesh, they are really good looking, and they're talented?!," and even "I bet they have way more (or less) experience than I do I bet."

Being in music school I've easily sacrificed my humility to make myself feel better or worse about not getting what I want, or not accomplishing things that I believe I've worked hard for. I compare myself to my colleagues based on the music they are assigned, the grades and marks they receive, or even the amount of attention my instructors give to certain students. However, a lesson that's constantly emphasized is that I cannot compare myself to another musician's (specifically, vocalists) progress. Despite how easy it is to do, I didn't know all the time they put into their craft, just as they don't know how much I put into mine.

Because our journeys as artists are so unique and individualized, my growth was only going to continue if I allowed myself to fully invest in myself and not into what other people are doing. I had to make sure that when I went to go practice that I didn't focus on what I was hearing around me and focused more on the growth happening right in front of me. This also included how much stress that I could put on myself before it became unhealthy and destructive. Understanding my own limitations and how to move past them, as opposed to seeing other's limitations and claiming them as my own.

When I was a dedicated runner in high school, my self-consciousness was heightened because of my physical capabilities and attributes. I'm only 5'5" and I was running against/with runners often significantly taller than me for long-distance running. For a while instead of just saying, "I can be just as fast as them," I would say "I wish I had longer legs and was as tall them," or "Maybe if I weigh LESS and eat certain foods, then I'll be faster" (which frankly started its own problems). I was my own worst enemy and ultimately because I was more committed to singing I stopped running for a long time after my last season in high school.

I wasn't mature enough to understand that although I wasn't the fastest runner on my team, I still loved running. Since I had stopped running I told everyone how much I hated it and how it was a waste of time, but in reality being a runner boosted my personal confidence of what I was capable of doing on and off the track. I built a mental endurance and strength that's helped me persevere through many tough experiences. Currently, by focusing more on how I could be a better runner, my training is going far better than any workout or race during high school. My physical progression is allowing my body to feel and look better than it ever has, and my attention has switched to my individual growth.

My hope in sharing those experiences is that you as the reader can identify similarities in your environments. Have you ever felt not good enough because you saw someone else doing "better"? Do you ever feel like other people just have it so much easier than you for seemingly no reason? Maybe you're trying to measure to someone else simply to impress others?

It's ok to learn from your peers and their experiences because, as opposed to sizing yourself up against them, you are opening your mind to new ideas and tactics to help you in the long run. It's also ok to learn from their mistakes without making yourself superior or better because you haven't made that mistake yet. Understand that the smallest of changes to your mindset may help in the long run (pun intended), and I am continuing to practice what I'm preaching. Competition is great and has its benefits, but as an individual, I found redirecting your focus and energy can help you find what you really want out of your gifts and talents, and, more importantly, your life.

At the end of the day it is so important to understand that by comparing yourself to other people all the time, you stunt your own growth. I think I would be so much farther along if I didn't worry so much about what I thought of others and what they think of me. I set my own standard for what I want to achieve in life as opposed to letting the standard be the successes of other individuals. I would even challenge that if you have a role model, shoot to exceed what they have done in life to create your own legacy. Through self-discovery will come an understanding of what sets you apart as an individual, allowing you to speak your dreams into existence.