There's a simple secret to remaining confident as you seek to do your best.
Take a good look at the pictures of Olympic podiums. Obviously, the gold medalist has a euphoric face. But more often than not, the bronze medalist looks happier than the silver medalist. The silver medalist has performed better, yet he is less happy with himself.
This is understandable. The silver winner compares him- or herself to someone who has been better than them; the first place escaped them. The bronze winner, on the other hand, compares himself to all those who don’t have the joy of being on the podium.
All this leads us to reflect on how we think of competition in our educational system. And to the environment of our young people. Very often, we hear children or students sighing: “It’s no use; I’ll never make it.” In fact, even students preparing for exams must valiantly fight against these inner messages that are so demobilizing. We can see the combined effects of the overly competitive spirit and the comparative tension that permeates our environment.
There’s a misunderstanding about the place we give to competition. If we regard it for the most part as a healthy source of energy, a catalyst for progress or self-improvement, we overlook its fundamental driving force: comparison. It is often more about surpassing others than it is about surpassing oneself. But by perpetually comparing ourselves to others, we end up constantly looking at ourselves in a judgmental way.
What, then, will our criterion of judgment be?The performance of others, or their social status, or their physical appearance — the list is endless. The ultimate criterion being the ideal model proposed by the touched-up and unreal images that literally pollute our daily universe. There is nothing like it to shatter self-confidence. Far from engendering solid self-confidence, the comparison weakens confidence: the criterion of my supposed value will always be external, changing, and often impossible to equal.
Competition is only healthy if it is based on gratitude to others
So what can we say to those entrusted to us, to those who strive to succeed in what they have undertaken? Competition is only healthy if it removes toxic comparisons and gives gratitude to others. To have in mind all that I owe to others, to be aware that I can count on them, to be grateful to them: this way of looking at others reinforces self-confidence, invigorates the hope of success, avoids the glorification of success, and softens the effects of failure.
Deep down, nobody wants to be loved for their performances. Let us then place our young person under the gaze of God, who in the secret of prayer will constantly tell him or her how incomparable, absolutely unique, precious and formidable they are—just as they are.