When it comes to phrases, “the early bird catches the worm” is a particular favourite of my younger brother, particularly when he has just seized the largest portion of dessert or piled into the front seat of the car, which between us is widely regarded as the best due to its superior view, close proximity to the radio and seat warmer. For me, therefore, this sentence induces a certain sense of irritation, possibly caused by my association of it with defeat.
However while sizzling in the heat of sports day today, racking my brains for something to write for the blog, I couldn't help but think of this phrase. Despite my strong dislike for it I think that there is a truth in the point made about competition. Too often another phrase is thrown at us by teachers, parents and coaches desperate to inspire some determination in their lacklustre teenagers, no doubt you will be familiar with “life’s a competition” but aside from its use in cheesy pep talks, I encourage you to consider to what extent do you believe this?
Considering both arguments, on one hand many may dismiss the concept on the grounds that this is purely used to motivate others rather than as a motto to live by and lacks truth. Some may argue that ultimately the competition is with yourself and that achieving a personal best is the most important thing. Building on the theme of quotes I came across this from R. Kelly, “My greatest competition is, well, me.” A personal best is what most people naturally aim for trying to better themselves and improve on past attempts. It is, of course, how we learn, by making mistakes, analysing and using this newly acquired experience so that the next attempt will be more successful.
And yet, we find it almost impossible to not compare ourselves to others. For example, though I may try not to make a judgment based on an individuals appearance, I cannot help but have an opinion on it. Based on this opinion I would then, consciously or not, make a comparison or try to draw parallels between us. We cannot help looking for similarities and differences between ourselves and others in our animalistic desire to fit in. Our tendency for competition could also be described as instinctive and animalistic. Fundamentally competition is the attempt to be better than those around you, the exact definition being “the activity or condition of striving to gain or win something by defeating or establishing superiority over others.” In the fight for survival competition is key to primarily winning a mate, territory and prey. However the idea that we must compete with our peers and contemporaries in every aspect of life be it jobs, academia, love and relationships or appearance, is unnerving and therefore many choose to slander it. We believe ourselves too evolved and moralistic to bow to instinct but how much can we control our most basic desires?
In closing my article I find myself feeling a bit lost and without a clear conclusion, I believe that the culmination of my reflection is that though competition can occasionally be regarded as destructive we must not ignore its significance in daily life and respect that through competition we can attain our goals. Personally I hope to embrace healthy competition and not hesitate to compete for the worm.
“Friendships born on the field of athletic strife are the real gold of competition. Awards become corroded, friends gather no dust.” -Jesse Owens