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Your Life is Not a Competition: Toxic Trends and Behaviours You Need to Ditch

Life is a Journey, Not a Race

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While growing up, my parents would constantly compare me to my peers.

  • “How come they have better grades?”
  • “How come they have time for both school and extracurricular activities?”
  • “Why can’t you be more like other kids?”

During one of those tirades, I remember asking my parents why weren’t they successful as some of my friend’s parents. Why don’t they work in a bank and afford a huge house with a pool?

That kept them silent for a while.

Truth is – nobody likes to be compared to others.

Not only is it not a constructive way of dealing with undesired results but it can also have massive consequences on people’s self-confidence and feelings of self-worth.

Nowadays, I see a pattern of similar behaviour all around me.

People have embraced this competitive nature and started to implement it in every aspect of their lives. And while there’s nothing wrong with striving for more, the problem arises once you start believing that your way of doing things is the only proper way to do them.

What’s even more problematic is that more and more people are willingly participating in viral trends and behaviours which promote nothing but competitiveness and shaming, masked to look like healthy and constructive ideologies.

The reason for that is simple – those ideologies are essentially good, but the way they’re exploited and promoted is making them harmful and downright dangerous.

All of them can be amazing tools for self-improvement when used correctly.

Most of the things I’ll mention in this article are probably familiar to all of you. You might have willingly or unwillingly participated in one or more of these.

I know I have.

And some of these movements I still endorse with all my being – but in moderation and with restraint.

While I know this list may anger many, I plead you to try and see it for what it truly is – a critique of pestilential inclinations which bring about nothing but damage.

I invite you all to remember that your life is not a competition and you should do the things you enjoy without paying heed to others.

So, without further ado, I present the list of toxic trends and behaviours you need to ditch – once and for all.

#Fitspiration

Originated on Instagram, but since has rapidly spread all across the internet, Fitspiration is one of the most popular movements on social media today.

A combo of the words Fitness and Inspiration, the trend was created with one goal in mind – to promote the health benefits of exercise and inspire people to take an interest in an active lifestyle.

Pretty cool, right?

Yes! 

Except, the movement soon spiralled downward becoming the exact opposite of what it was supposed to represent.

Today, our screens are bombarded with photos of toned abs, round butts and perfect bodies with “motivational” captions such as: 

  • NO EXCUSES
  • IF YOU DON’T PLAY TO WIN, DON’T PLAY AT ALL
  • WAKE UP – SWEAT – REPEAT

Creating such a pressure-induced culture of fitness does not foster motivation, in fact, it has a completely opposite effect.

A recent study conducted by the University of Southampton found that Fitspitational content is “unrealistic and difficult to associate with.”

Furthermore, the research shows that this movement can have a wide range of negative consequences on its followers, from increased frustration and annoyance to more startling results like developing a negative self-image and unhealthy eating habits.

Fitspiration targets both men and women, with guys being portrayed as strong macho men and girls showcasing their toned, cellulite and stretch-mark free bodies.

The truth behind these perfect images often differs a lot from reality with photoshop, extreme dieting and unhealthy living choices often being incorporated in the recipe.

The end result? 

Millions of women, men, girls and boys with confidence issues, eating disorders and unattainable goals they’ve set up for themselves. People who are constantly comparing themselves to others, trying to get that ideal magazine look by any means possible.

It’s time to set some realistic expectations for ourselves. It’s time to stop promoting the perfect body type because it doesn’t exist.

It’s time to stop telling people that “skinny is better” or that real women have curves.”

It’s time to accept ourselves as we are, so we can finally use fitness as a tool for promoting health and well-being, not degrading it.

#Book Challenges

This one is especially difficult for me, seeing how I love books and am an avid reader.

Or so I thought.

Apparently, there are certain reading standards you must abide by if you wish to consider yourself a true book lover.

Unfortunately, the wondrous culture of reading is not immune to the competitive nature of people and has found a hefty following of bookworms who have made this favourite hobby into an ongoing contest.

One of such examples is the well-known and beloved book challenge.

The design is quite simple – you set up a goal to read a certain amount of books in a specific time frame. There are also viral book challenges with massive followings where people sign up to participate in these reading spectacles and are prompted to read a variety of books from different genres.

What’s so wrong with reading more books you ask?

Absolutely nothing!

I like to believe that books are one of the best and most entertaining tools for self-improvement.

But, what happens when you turn reading into a competition?

On the positive side, you develop a steady reading habit and perhaps you pick up a book you would never try before. Perhaps you fall in love with it and find a new favourite genre – hooray! You might learn something new and develop a taste for different things.

Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash

Or you might start to resent reading altogether. It’s not unusual for people to lose interest in things once they become an obligation. Once you make reading your chore, something you must check off of your list, it might lose its appeal. Especially if you’re reading books you haven’t chosen yourself.

Of course, that’s not the biggest problem surrounding this topic.

My concern for book challenges stems from the quality-over-quantity debate.

If you’re focused on reading 150 books in a year, are you putting the quality of books in second place? Do you even spend time ruminating the book you’re reading or are you just flying through the content so you can achieve your goal faster?

I’ve read plenty of blogs from people who have participated in reading challenges claiming how the whole concept stresses them out. Some have gone so far to say that falling behind their schedules has given them anxiety attacks and depressive episodes. Others admitted to choosing only random short books just so they could reach their quota for the year.

What happened to reading as a hobby? A past-time activity? Something you do to destress not increase your agitation?

Not everything has to be measured. 

Your intelligence is not dependent on the number of books you read in a year, nor is it measured by your level of education or the work you do for a living.

Allow yourself to experience the absolute magic of the book you read – even if it means you’ll only read one book in a single year.

#Travel Chronicles

Growing up in a country where holidays are considered a luxury only a few can afford, I learned how to get creative with my travels.

I embraced a so-called gipsy lifestyle and hitchhiking, camping and budget travelling soon became my go-to tools for each new adventure.

During my travels, I’ve met plenty of people with different backgrounds, extraordinary stories, diverse mindsets and colourful lives. But one group of travellers has especially stuck with me – and for all the wrong reasons.

The free-spirited travellers who always take the road less travelled; the ones who go off the beaten track…those who take every chance to remind us of their beloved mantra:

I’m not a tourist – I’m a traveller.

The whole concept is based on praising the one, true way of travelling – their way. At the same time the idea is to shame others who don’t share the same vision.

Being a part of many travelling and nomad communities, I’ve encountered numerous attempts at shaming, mocking and outright abusing those who have expressed the desire to use a travel agency, see a famous landmark or visit a popular destination.

Last time I checked, travelling was supposed to be an individual choice. An attempt to escape the daily rut of life and experience something new – in a way we see fit.

Photo by Lola Delabays on Unsplash

There’s nothing wrong with posing for a photo in front of the Eiffel Tower or taking the plane instead of hitchhiking to the other side of the country.

Why do we try so hard to show others that our way of doing things is the only proper way? Why do we turn everything into a competitive sport?

The trend of dog-eat-dog needs to cease. 

We need to learn to coexist in this world without imposing our beliefs and our ways on others. We need to learn more respect. 

And finally – we need to learn that there is more than one right way to do things.

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