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  • Writer's pictureJess D

Staying in Your Own Lane by Competing with Yourself

Updated: Jun 7, 2023

Competition is hard when it's all around you. Here are some of my challenges in competition and how I've been improving myself in bjj and more.

BJJ is a sport with constant competition. Competition as soon as you step onto the mat for class, competition during positional sparring, competition about who’s the best in whatever belt categories, competition at regular competition. These instances are stressful enough by itself. If you think about normal life, there is constant competition even when we’re not trying to compete.

On Instagram, how many times do we see likes on the most “thirst trappy” pictures and think to ourselves: “Dang… I’m not that good looking, fit, or photogenic.”

We look at the person who we went to high school with and see how their life is doing and decide “Wow, I’m doing better than them” or “Man, I wish I was doing as well as they are…”

If we’re single and want to be in a relationship, we get depressed when we see that mean b***h/ dumb a**hole dating the person of our dreams and think “they don’t deserve them! I should be with someone like that!”

In our own minds, there are competitors in every avenue everywhere and there always has to be a winner or loser. We often fail to recognize that the most important competition that we should be fighting is within ourselves to be better than the person we were yesterday.

Yes, this sounds so cliché and silly but how much pressure do we put on ourselves every day to reach something that might not be attainable or just isn’t for us? I want to share my story of competition as a child of two immigrants living in the suburbs in the US and how this mentality affects me as an adult:

My complexes from competition started with being in mostly white spaces being the only black girl. I’m sure other black people or people of color have heard “You have to work twice as hard to get even half” or “You have to be the best to be recognized for your work” and it really reigned true for me. In swimming despite being tired from studying or just being a teenager, I had to make sure I hit double practices or even triple practices within the swim season. I couldn’t just be on the swim team, I made sure that I was in at least 2 or 3 events during the high school season.

During orchestra, I practiced my cello hard to make sure I had a chance to be first chair, get solos, or at least top 6 chairs in area all-state and all county orchestra. I remember getting 10th or 12thchair one year and not even enjoying playing because it looked like I didn’t try hard enough. I was a decent student, but I felt tired just trying to do it all and be the best I could be.

All this pressure that I put on myself wasn’t directly to improve. It was because I was trying to be better than the people around me. This kind of pressure is so dangerous to a growing kids’ psyche and it. Is. Exhausting.

When it comes to BJJ, during my whole journey, I’ve felt a constant struggle to my ego and my body, putting in a lot of work and seeing someone advancing more than me. I used to compare myself to some of my other teammates and would feel bad if they would rank up ahead of me. It wouldn’t matter if it were a man or woman or if they were in a different belt rank than me, I would almost hate myself for not advancing.

This is not a great way of thinking and I really want to change this aspect of my thinking. I’ve been trying to improve little things about my mentality and there have been small changes here and there. Here’s what I’ve been doing to focus more on my own growth and happiness and stay in my own lane:

Martial Arts and More

In BJJ, martial arts, fitness, and more I’ve always kinda used people as a benchmark on what my level should be. I’ve decided to make me my benchmark and compare me from last year to me today. Recently, I’ve been focusing on one aspect of my game that I’ve struggled with and compared myself to my past progress. As I write this, my bottom game really needs work and instead of telling myself that I suck and that I’m not a real purple belt, I’ve been putting myself in a bottom position and I’ve gotten a lot better at it. I still have a lot of work to do, but I know I’m better than past me. I could do even better by setting goals for myself and coming up with ways to follow up on those goals.

Life and Looks

In life, I’ve kind of stepped off the mindset of doing things perfectly. With this mindset, I’ve thought about doing something perfectly so much that I end up not doing it at all. I have decided that the only way for me to learn is to do and improve along the way. Sometimes in your own growth, it’s hard to see what is getting better and sometimes it’s hard to stay motivated when you can’t see tangible results. For me, some of my results are noticeable and some of my results I feel the improvements and I know something is happening. This also goes back to documenting and setting goals to see those tangible results.

In terms of aesthetic, I’m growing in the things that are meant for me and defining my idea of what is good instead of the social idea of what is good. This is in terms of what social media or society decides of what the perfect career, perfect relationship, perfect whatever. Everyone’s idea of perfect changes and it can’t be captured by someone else’s ideals. So, I’m making the things in life as good as it can be for my own happiness.

Putting on Blinders

In terms of the problem of watching what others are doing around me, I’ve put blinders on in terms of what I’m trying to achieve in the things I’m doing. Not only because I have issues focusing on my own task but when I look at what other people are doing, I lose focus on what I’m trying to do. I’ve decided to focus on the things that I’m good at and keep going on my own path. Obviously, I acknowledge the people around me doing the same things but what they’re doing is what they’re doing and what I’m doing is what I’m doing. There’s no need to compare myself to other people.

The idea of competition can drive us to be at the top of our game. But when it becomes a daily occurrence and for things you don’t even need to be competing on with people who don’t know you’re competing with them, it can become a problem that messes up our own growth. I hope that I can make my own improvements by competing with the only person that matters: myself.

Which methods to you use to prevent yourself from comparing yourself to others and make yourself better for your own sake.

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