One of my favorite comedians is Brian Regan. The first time I heard him was a TV special titled I Walked On The Moon. It is full of hilarious antics of everyday life that so many of us can relate to. He ends the special by telling us his social fantasy: being one of the few astronauts that walked on the moon. He goes on to explain that this would allow him to one-up a “me monster” (someone who just can’t stand to let anyone else in the room get any attention) when he/she totally encompasses a conversation.
How many times have you started to tell a story only to be “one-upped” by someone else? You come in to work on Monday and want to share what happened over the weekend. As you get to the precipice of your tale, some goober interrupts with a “Yeah, well, I did … (fill in the blank).” Why do we often feel the need to show people we are better than they are or had a better/worse experience than they did?
Okay, I’ll just say it. I am ugly competitive. In EVERYTHING. In little things, big things, in work, and in play. It was really ridiculous in my younger years (that would be my 30s), but now that I am about to hit the big 5-0, I think I am maturing. In fact, I am probably maturing faster than you.
Early on in my marriage, my husband threw me a grand birthday party. We were in our 20s and loved having people over to hang out and play games. About an hour into the celebratory soiree, my husband started showing off an unusual talent; he could burp the alphabet. It was funny at first – my husband, the belching boss! But as the crowd grew more impressed by his rifting, I found myself scrambling for a way to match his entertainment skills. I made my way into the group and inquired how I might be able to perform such an illustrious feat. My husband explained that if I drank soda and swallowed air at the same time, I could be just as successful in this gaseous game. Grabbing a can of Coke, I quickly guzzled the fizzy drink while swallowing air. As I finished the last drop, I bellowed out to the party-goers, “Everyone, listen to me!” As I opened my mouth to exude a wonderfully colorful version of my ABCs, my body decided to revolt and reverse the process. Instead of burping, I expelled a lovely puff of flatulence. Yep, there I was in all my birthday-pooting glory. Not one of my best moments!
Growing up in a low-socioeconomic neighborhood, I can remember many comments made to and about me. Oftentimes, I would ignore them or laugh them off, but inside I struggled. I often found myself figuring out how to prove to others I am worthy. Worthy of their friendship, of their respect, of their approval. Little did I know in my young mind what a dangerous game that can be. And as I grew up, my desire to excel was more of an obsession. If I am completely honest, I was well into my adult years before I figured out the world’s standards of success are always changing. I also learned that if I continued to use that measuring stick, I would constantly be disappointed. I finally smartened up and resolved to create realistic expectations, or at least expectations that would make me content. I no longer wanted to succeed to beat everyone else; I wanted to succeed to better myself. This would also allow me to better serve the people around me.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Make the most of yourself, for that is all there is of you.” We are uniquely created. We all have talents and gifts that are our own. You don’t need to strive to be someone different. Strive to be the best you!