Why Can’t I Be the Best?

Question: Why is it that, no matter what I do, I can never be the best? I always feel like a failure even when I get second place. Yes, second place is still great but knowing that doesn’t help. I’ve tried hard to be the best but I can never get there. I wish my parents weren’t so laid back. If they’d put more pressure on me, maybe I’d be better. Even relationships are a challenge. My siblings and I fight a lot, even over small things like chores. My dad says they get along when I’m not there but I don’t know why. I try to be as nice as I can be. Am I the problem? Would they be better off if I left? Another issue is that I don’t talk to other people my age. I get out of conversations by being quiet. I’m worried that if I don’t fix this, I’ll have a lonely life. What should I do?

Answer: It seems like you live in a very black and white world in which if you’re not the best, you’re nothing. That simply isn’t the case and I have to wonder where you got that idea. It’s a very unrealistic expectation because, let’s be honest, the vast majority of people will never be the best. There will always be someone who is better than we are just like there will always be someone who is worse. So why tear yourself into pieces trying to do something that cannot be done, especially when it’s so unnecessary? My philosophy is that everyone should strive to be “good enough.” Good Enough doesn’t mean we don’t try to do OUR best; it’s more that the standards of success are reasonable. It’s also about learning that whatever we can achieve is acceptable.

Which leads me to my next point: what is so great about being the best anyway? I’m guessing that somewhere along the line you learned that in order to be a worthy human being, you need to be the best. Again, this isn’t true. If it were, then 99.9% of us would be in trouble. You are a worthy human being and people will like you regardless of whether you are the best. In fact, people who are the best often have a hard time connecting with others; for a variety of reasons, being the best can be lonely. So, I think you need to figure out what need in you being the best would fill and start there. If you can realize that the need can be met in other ways, giving up the drive to be the best will be easier.

Perhaps you should change your definition of success. In your effort to be the best, you may be cutting yourself off from the things that truly matter in life and that is relationships. You’re already struggling with talking with people your own age and being with your family, so it could be time to put your energy there. One really great aspect of relationships is that there is no best; they’re not about that. Instead, relationships are about connecting and enjoying the time spent together. In short, relationships aren’t about doing; they are about being. It could be that you are so concerned about who is doing what and looking good that you miss out on listening to others, interacting with them collaboratively, and just enjoying yourself. Reading some books on conversation and relational skills could be helpful.

Whenever you deal with relationships, everyone has a role to play. So it’s not just you; everyone is to blame for the problems in your family. However, it could be that your interactions with your siblings are filled with so much tension and/or competition that it causes them to respond unpleasantly. That could be what your dad was trying to say. Instead of trying to “just leave” (this is another example of black and white thinking), why not ask your parents and siblings what you can do to improve your relationships with them? Instead of blaming them for what they have or have not done, figure out how you can enjoy being around them. Some of this may include halting the search for “the best” and instead just connect around your daily activities, thoughts and fun times. Once you take so much pressure off of yourself, you may be relieved enough to start enjoying life.

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