In my experiences, I’ve found there to be two major types of competitors: those who compete with others to be the best, and those who compete with themselves in order to constantly better themselves. Personally, I have always found that those who were of the latter category were the ones who were happier and more successful in the long run.
Eventually, everyone gets defeated at something or the other. More often than not, this leads to disappointment and a sense of weakness overwhelming the mind and body. Sometimes, this defeat inspires you to try harder at becoming better, and even if you beat your last opponent, eventually, you will be defeated again, if not by that same person, then by another. It will be a never-ending cycle.
Let’s say you don’t get defeated and instead, beat everyone you face. Eventually, you’ll run out of opponents. Then what? And now, your heart will have become filled with arrogance and pride for having overcome everyone and being the “best”.
Obviously, this can’t be set as a generalized concept, because everyone reacts to things differently, based on their personality and circumstances. However, I am one to believe in recognizing and planning for the worst, but hoping for and working towards the best.
Resolve: Challenge Yourself
When you face an opponent, you set your standards according to their skill level, their history of success, and so on. Basically, they determine your value in that competition. We may think that by beating that opponent, we would become stronger, but the truth is, we wouldn’t. All we would have proven is that we were able to outdo someone that was perhaps not as fit as we were, physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually (depending on the challenge at hand). Instead, if the focus is put on evaluating your own strengths and working on solidifying them, you will find that you will always have a chance to grow.
THAT is the greatest challenge, because it’s about more than just the specific skill or talent at hand, but it makes you tap into facing your own weaknesses, and overcoming your own pride and stubbornness in thinking that by facing this challenge, you would be defeated by your own self. Competing against yourself humbles you.
There is more awareness of your opponent when you are your own opposition. You know your strengths and weaknesses better than anyone else does, so you know what you need to work on and what you need to remove from your life. This, however, can become challenging when we see our weakness as parts of ourselves that can’t be overcome. This is something that won’t help in your future or your growth.
Beating The Old You
Weaknesses should be worked on and overcome. If you struggle with confidence, push yourself to overcome it by waking every morning and telling yourself that you are confident and can overcome your fears. If you struggle with being stubborn, remove it from your heart by doing what you’re stubborn about not doing. If you’re indecisive, take a step towards one of the decisions, and let life flow towards what’s best for you. In all these situations, truthfully, what do you have to lose? Have faith and take a leap! Don’t let fears, pride, or worries cloud your judgment. Be strong in who you are and take a step. God will show you the rest of the way.
Often, the greatest thing that holds us back from succeeding and moving forward with our lives after experiencing something life-changing, is our own soul.
“The greatest Jihad (struggle) one will face is the struggle against his own soul.” – Prophet Muhammad (SAW)
When you are your own greatest opponent, you will always have a challenge to face, because we are human, and humanity is flawed and always in need of improvement. Use this to humble yourself and as your motivation to work harder towards becoming a better person.
As you grow, the challenges you faced in the past become easier to face if they approach you again, and they seem simpler than what you face today. This is beautiful, because it makes you realize that you are capable of overcoming your struggles. It also reminds you that regardless of what you face, God will never burden you beyond your abilities.
“Allah does not charge a soul except [with that within] its capacity. It will have [the consequence of] what [good] it has gained, and it will bear [the consequence of] what [evil] it has earned. “Our Lord, do not impose blame upon us if we have forgotten or erred. Our Lord, and lay not upon us a burden like that which You laid upon those before us. Our Lord, and burden us not with that which we have no ability to bear. And pardon us; and forgive us; and have mercy upon us. You are our protector, so give us victory over the disbelieving people.” – Quran (2:286)
As humans, we should constantly be striving towards becoming better as people first before we work towards becoming better in our careers, knowledge, health, etc.
The key to succeeding and finding ease in becoming better as people is through building on our faith and closeness to God. God is the Ultimate Provider of everything, and it’s through Him that we are able to do the things we do. So, it is important for us to worship Him and thank Him for all that He does for us. When we do this, we will find that Allah provides us with what we seek. All we have to do is ask.
“And when My servants ask you, [O Muhammad], concerning Me – indeed I am near. I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls upon Me. So let them respond to Me [by obedience] and believe in Me that they may be [rightly] guided.” – Quran (2:186)
The Prophet (SAW) told us that Allah said:
“My slave does not draw near to Me with anything more beloved to Me than the religious duties I have enjoined upon him, and My slave continues to draw near to Me with supererogatory works so that I love him. When I love him, I am his hearing with which he hears, his sight with which he sees, his hand with which he strikes, and his foot with which he walks. Were he to ask [something] of Me, I would surely give it to him, and were he to ask Me for refuge, I would surely grant him it.” (al-Bukhaari, 6502)
When you challenge yourself, you are facing the greatest challenge you can, which is to overcome your own pride, stubbornness, fears, weaknesses, and more. You become stronger in faith as well, because taking steps towards things that are held back or put aside because of these factors you struggle to overcome is only possible through having more faith and reliance on God. Reflect on who you are and what your strengths and weaknesses are, especially in your faith. Then, take the leap and challenge yourself to become a better you!