“Oh he/she is the best”! A statement that all of us keep wanting to hear about us or those around us (especially mothers!).

What is the best? Does it have any criteria? A cut off score? Or even a definition? I have never really understood the way people use “the best” as an absolute, be it in terms of food, health or people.

The best food from a restaurant is “ma ke haath ki yaad dilane wala” and the best food cooked by mom is “hotel jaisa”. So what is the best food exactly?

According to me “the best” changes from day to day, situation to situation and person to person. The best morning could be a Sunday morning when I don’t have to get up and do anything or the best morning could be a day of fulfilling work.

Ask a romantic and he will tell you that the best weather is dark clouds, pouring rain and freezing breeze. Ask a person waiting to play cricket and he will tell you the best weather is bright sunshine and clear sky.

If then we are not clear about how “the best” is defined for such concrete concepts, how do we define “the best” for abstract things like human qualities?

We try so hard to be the best at whatever we do. Yet we never spare a thought to what is this best? Let’s take an example of “the best”” doctor. What according to you is  “the best” doctor? This one lady complained to me how her doctor gave her just one medicine for her symptoms. Obviously he did not know much!!! While another complained about how the doctor gives too many pills. Is “the best” doctor someone who charges less or do we believe that ‘he is expensive so must be “the best”’. Can’t seem to reach to a conclusion, can we?

Let’s try a teacher then. The best teacher is someone who makes sure that the student understood the concept or someone who dictated notes? Someone who cracks jokes in class or someone who is a strict disciplinarian?

Most of our life is spent in this pursuit of “the best”. We are obsessed with being the best professional, the best parent, the best friend, the best son, the best wife and so on. We want our children to be the best boy/girl, the best student, the best sportsperson and what not.

Best is a superlative degree. In other words it involves comparison. But comparison can be between similar things. I remember watching an interview about two legendary cricketers Sir Don Bradman and Sachin Tendulkar. The person made a very valid point. He said that the two can’t be compared because they were playing in different conditions, different rules and different formats of the game. They both are best in their own way.

Such simple logic. To be the best in our own way and not in comparison with someone. Wanting to best my own self. To be better than I was yesterday. Why is it so complicated then?

We have been brought up to believe that we can only be the best when we are better than others? It is subconsciously imbibed in us that it is more important to defeat than to win.

It is not just marks or a salary package. It has permeated deep within every part of our existence. We even compare our relationship. The success of marriage is not about how much we love each other but whether we love each other the most. I have seen many couples fight because they aren’t the superlative in each other’s life. She should enjoy being in my company the most, he should like my cooking the best, he should find me the best looking, she should care for me the most.

Even our holidays are a competition. Its not about spending time together or having fun. It is about having the best location, the best accommodation and the best photos. A healthy life is not about a good diet and exercise. It is more about whether I ate less and exercised more than others.

There is no denying the role of competition in our world. I agree it is not always possible to compete only with oneself.  There are limited seats in a college, limited jobs and limited Olympic medals. It is important to excel.

The desire to be the best is important. It motivates us to go forward. It makes us push our limits and move out of our comfort zone. The problem begins when the desire becomes a compulsion. When I consider myself a failure if I am not the best. Why? Because the best is not static. It changes with time.

How can I be the best when the best keeps changing? What was best today may become mundane tomorrow. Anyone who buys a car or an electronic item can vouch for that statement. If the goal makes me give up before I even tried it is not a goal at all.

The best becomes the worst when it is defined by someone else. If I define my success with someone else as the reference point. If that was so Sachin Tendulkar would cease to be the best batsman the moment Virat Kohli broke his record.

The toughest competition is the one I have with my past self.

The best is a mirage. Reality then is to move ahead. Ahead of where I was today because in my pursuit of being the best I might become better.

Dr. Gauri Nadkarni Choudhary
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