Every few months I ask my community on Instagram what challenges they’re facing, what content they want to see more of, or what topics they’re interested in exploring on a more in-depth level. I then use these suggestions to help formulate my content for upcoming months. Once I’ve felt like I’ve covered a majority of the topic suggestions, I’ll repeat the process and ask the community again. My primary goal with my Instagram and blog is to help others—to share my experiences, failures and faults, and bits of wisdom I’ve picked up over the years that have improved my life. I don’t claim to be an expert on fitness or any of the topics I write about, but if I’ve picked up some tidbit of knowledge along the way that’s really helped me, sharing that knowledge with others is important. Keeping potentially life changing information to myself in my opinion, is selfish.
The idea behind this post came from an incident that happened a few weeks back. A recurring topic suggestion that keeps popping up from the community is how to deal with shin splints—a common injury amongst beginner, but also seasoned runners. I’ve avoided addressing this topic because I personally haven’t had to deal with this type of injury over the years. My style of writing consists of intertwining the chosen topic with my own personal experience and advice—that’s where I feel like I can make the best contribution and add the most value. I came up with an idea to recruit some running coaches/experts on Instagram who’s content provides detail and depth and most importantly, who seems like they genuinely want to help others. Everyone I messaged got back to me and was receptive to the idea—they wanted to help collaborate on a post. One person didn’t get back to me, however. This woman has a particularly big following so my expectations were low on receiving a response. What I didn’t expect, however, was her to snag the topic idea and publish a post herself on the same topic the very same day I messaged her—only a few hours after I had sent her that DM asking if she wanted to collaborate. I’m not trying to stir up any drama which is why I’m not naming any names—it’s not like I own the topic idea of shin splints either. I just thought it was odd behaviour. Instead of getting angry or upset, I just got curious. I wondered why someone with such a big following who claims they want to help other runners, doesn’t want to reach a wider audience with their expertise and message? I realize I don’t have nearly as big of an audience, but still. This led me down a rabbit hole of trying to understand people’s real intentions behind social media—especially those with a high follower count claiming to be an expert on a particular topic. To me, this seemed like an action that was spurred by competition. However, if your goal is to help as many people as possible, why not extend that reach by collaborating with someone else in a similar vertical?
Social media has become a competition: who has the most followers, likes comments, engagement, and brand sponsorships. It’s a natural human tendency to want to compete, but to progress forward and to make the most impact on other people’s lives, why not try collaborating instead? This notion of always being the best or competing to be number one, is truly exhausting. I know this from personal experience—not just in the racing world, but in other facets of my life as well. Turning jealousy and envy into support and excitement for other people’s accomplishments is liberating. Collaborating and celebrating other’s accomplishments is a marker of self confidence—you’re assured in your own abilities. Why envy these people when instead, you can use other’s admirable qualities as a form of inspiration—to help fuel your own journey and goals in life. For years, when I showed up to races I had my game face on—I wanted to compete and that was my main intention for signing up for the event in the first place. But with this competitive mindset being the top priority, I also experienced a flurry of other emotions: primarily anxiety and fear. When I let go of this notion that I needed to be the best, I’d roll up to the start line and just tell myself I’ll do the best that I can with the circumstances I’m dealt with on this particular day. I enjoyed the experience so much more and was proud of myself for getting it done—regardless of whether I got a personal best or placed. It’s not always about winning, folks.
Steve Magness, performance coach and co-creator of the Growth Equation wrote an incredible piece titled Competing With (Instead Of Always Against). The article presents an important lesson in regard to competition and uses a recent anecdote from the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. If you didn’t witness this incredible moment, in short this is what happened: Both high jumpers cleared the bar of ~7’9, but failed to clear the 7’10 bar three times in a row. Rather than proceed to the ‘jump-off’, they asked the referree if it was possible to share the gold medal instead. Steve sums the following emotions perfectly when the referee concurred that it was indeed possible. He writes: “At that moment, Tamberi and Barshim erupt in celebration. You can see the emotional weight lift and the two fierce competitors pure joy and elation come out.”
This was truly a beautiful moment and a clear takeaway for the rest of us. Even under the most extreme pressure to be the best in the world at their sport; something they’ve dedicated countless hours and years of their lives to, they still, at the end, decided to collaborate and share in that moment. By collaborating instead of competing, we too can lift our own “emotional weight” and work with others to achieve the same goal.
When it comes to competing and comparing ourselves to others on social media, it should be ubiquitous by now that it can have a pernicious effect on mental health. If someone makes you feel unworthy or like shit, it’s best to unfollow them. 9/10 times when I go on social media, it makes me feel worse about myself unless I’m following people that are spreading important and empowering messages. Social media can be used as a great communication tool in the right context, but it can also become a world-wide competition to fight for those likes, comments, and followers. I prefer to use the former, to spread a message I think is important to others. My perspective will always be unique, because each one of us is unique, but when it comes to helping others, my main goal with this community, I will always opt for collaborating over competing.