Why I No Longer Need to Be the Best at Everything I Do

Posted by on August 12, 2017 in Conscious Evolution, Conscious Living, Thrive with 0 Comments
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By Vironika Tugaleva | Tiny Buddha

“I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live up to what light I have.
” ~Abraham Lincoln

As a child, my father always told me, “At everything you do, you have to be number one.” I tried. In some ways, I succeeded. I got high grades. Sometimes, the highest. Sometimes, I got awards.

I became an expert at figuring out other people’s expectations and meeting them. This got me approval, but it never made me happy. I wasn’t passionate about grades, awards, or approval. I didn’t feel butterflies in my stomach while doing math. I didn’t feel shivers down my spine while conjugating French verbs.

I loved to write, sing, dance. I was the girl who made up song lyrics and got them stuck in her head. I was the girl who stayed up after her parents went to bed to dance around, sing into my pillow, and crawl out onto the roof to dream about flying far, far away. I was that girl who couldn’t understand my thoughts until I wrote them down.

Despite my parents’ wishes for me to pursue an academic, intellectual route, I went to theatre school. There, I thought I would explore the deepest crevices of my desires. I was wrong.

I found the fine art education world to be shallow, and I found myself to be the same. My mind fixated on being the best. I never was. Disappointed with myself as much as the program, I dropped out. I slunk back to logic and facts. Skepticism. Analysis. Things I was good at. I got good grades. I got awards.

But being good at something is never a replacement for loving it. I was addicted to academic achievement because it earned me approval. I could never get enough. Again, I got hungry for art.

After I almost led myself into an early grave, I realized how important it was to make time for the things that made me feel alive. Yet on that journey, I’ve found myself constantly in the intermediate pile. Sometimes, beginner. Never, ever the best.

I run all the time, but I’m not fast. I’ve been doing yoga for ten years, but I still can’t do Crow Pose. I’ve been playing acoustic guitar on and off for years, and I still struggle with barre chords. I’ve been singing since I was a kid, and my performances are inconsistent. I’ve been writing since I could hold a pen and doing it for a living since 2012, but most people have never heard of me.

For years, my father’s voice haunted me, telling me to always be number one. I tried to reject his advice, refuse it, write it off as worthless egotism. But still, it gnawed at me.

One voice in my head said I should accept myself just the way I am. Another part couldn’t help but point out all the room for improvement. Along the way, I’ve realized that one voice doesn’t need to defeat the other. They just need to learn to get along.

Accepting my skill level at something is self-loving. Who would doubt that? But assuming that my skills can’t or won’t ever get better is self-sabotage. To work on improving myself is a kind of self-acceptance too. I accept my ability to learn—however slow and awkward that learning process might be.

Some people say that we should always try to be better than who we were yesterday. I can’t agree with that. Some days, I’m less patient, less energetic, and less kind than I was the day before. And that’s okay.

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