Let’s stop being obsessed with being the best

Published 5:22 pm Thursday, July 2, 2020

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I think it’s fair to say that, as a society, we’re obsessed with being “the best.”

It’s ingrained in our brains from every point imaginable. Every professional sporting league ranks its participants each season, and whoever grabs the number one spot is considered “the best.”

I remember in high school voting for “senior superlatives” to decide which of my classmates was “the best” in different categories. People around my age (or parents of those people) might even remember the iconic theme to the Pokemon TV series which first line opens as “I wanna be the very best, like no one ever was.”

The idea is inescapable.

Placing so much importance on this label, however, sometimes leads to the idea of “if you’re not first, you’re last” and “if you’re not the best, you’re the worst.”

But I think that’s a silly way to think about it. There are plenty of athletes, for example, who are amazingly talented and skilled in their chosen sport, but they don’t always make the top of the rankings. Does that tarnish what accomplishments they do make? I certainly don’t think so.

It’s the same for any hobby or job we do. You can be plenty successful without being considered the MOST successful. In my opinion, it’s much more satisfying to be competent enough to do something well than to fail over and over again while striving to reach a label that is often unattainable for almost everybody.

This is on my mind this week as the Independence holiday arrives. Every July 4, we pause for a day to celebrate the birthday of our United States of America. We shoot off spectacular fireworks and clad ourselves in red, white, and blue as a show of patriotism. And plenty will say something like, isn’t it great that we live in “the best” country in the world.

But do we really need to even be considered “the best” country? No one can say exactly what the founding fathers were thinking when they fought for independence from England more than two centuries ago, but if I had been in their shoes, I don’t think my goal would have been to make the best country. I just would have wanted a good country. Something better than what we had before.

America doesn’t have to be number one on the country ranking charts; it just has to be a decent and wonderful place to live. And I mean for everyone here, not just the ones who hold the wealth and the power.

If you were one of the people hoping the conversation about racial injustice and systemic racism would die down by now, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but it’s an ongoing conversation people need to stop brushing under the rug. The United States, like every other country in the world, isn’t perfect. There are problems we need to address and work towards fixing.

Even locally, for example, our rural area is considered in some places as a “food desert” and there are families out there (maybe even your neighbors) who don’t have enough to eat every day.

How can we be “the best” country with issues like that within our own communities?

The conversations must continue and we must start making real, impactful changes in the world around us.

So for this Independence Day, please take some time to think about our country and the people who live here. Perhaps we’ve been too caught up in claiming to be “the best” that we’ve lost sight of what we need to do to be good.

 Holly Taylor is a Staff Writer at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at holly.taylor@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7206.