I started out my career in Malaysia with insecurity and fear of judgement. I was also in my early 20s, beaming confidence while hiding many pockets of self-uncertainty and a bit of luck in the genetics lottery. My hustle was often predicated on being two steps ahead of poverty. After purchasing a one-way ticket, I had no choice but to succeed.
The tough part was trying to convince clients to give me opportunities against a sea of already established, beautiful, talented women who had lived their entire lives in Malaysia. Women that had already built their careers over many years, including the never ending list of Miss Malaysia this and Miss Malaysia that. Because my networks weren’t as deeply rooted, I always felt like I was coming into new territory and feeling judged for it. I constantly benchmarked my success with others and always feeling like I was always on the losing end. Comparing myself with competition just made me more depressed about what I was not.
Competition is exhausting.
When it comes to life, not all of us come from the same place or start at the same place so when you try comparing yourself with someone, it is never fair. Your competition will always have a nicer purse, a cuter dog, be a more thoughtful gift-giver, have a funnier laugh or find something ridiculous that you will try to use as a benchmark to compete. It will never end when you consume yourself in someone else’s life and achievements.
It took a few more years for me to realise that the competition should have been with myself and not with anyone else. Challenging the status quo with my own benchmarks would allow me to measure progress much more effectively. Measuring success in this way gave me so much clarity and I didn’t worry about the “everyone else” anymore. My game plan was to compete against myself while picking up on what everyone else was doing. Just because you have competition doesn’t make you mortal enemies. This turning point was my epiphany. I was finally putting away the Hate-o-rade.
I didn’t mind giving a helping hand to my “competition” because I knew this would not take away from my own success.
I stopped trying to measure up with everyone else and focused on my own game. When jobs were beyond my scope, I didn’t mind passing on their names for clients to consider. I wasn’t going to make decisions out of insecurity and I definitely I wasn’t going to be selfish. I didn’t mind giving a helping hand to my “competition” because I knew this would not take away from my own success. This perspective of openness has brought me to newer heights in my career because it is important to build a career with integrity and confidence, not fear and insecurity.
Competition is relative anyway.
While you’re looking at someone’s life, green with envy, others are looking at your career in the same way. For every achievement you humbly tuck away as insignificant, another person would put that on a pedestal. The realization comes to you later in life, because you’re much more certain about who you are. When you’re new to any industry, it’s hard to feel a sense of confidence when there are too many variables. As I say to the younger ones, there are going to be more beautiful, more talented and more likeable people you will compete with, but your strength will always be who you are and what kind of mark you leave.
I think its very easy to compare how amazing people’s lives are based on how great they use social media platforms, but looking at what you can be proud of and where you can take it, is a much bigger feat. I admit my sphere of influence is shy in comparison with the emergence of “Youtubers” and “Instagrammers” but as this digital age starts to require more than a nice picture, I’d like to think that I can still hold my ground. It’s easy to get frustrated by this movement towards snappier, quicker bites of content. It’s easy to throw a shade at people that take photos of themselves and yet are unable to strike up a conversation. It’s easy to demand respect for your own achievements and look down on everyone else, but it won’t help the situation.
I believe in celebrating hard work and the new blood that challenges the industry and brings creativity that pushes all of us to reinvent ourselves, after all I was new once before. So if there’s competition, I say, Bring It! 🙂