Opponent, nemesis, arch rival, competitor. Trendy words used to describe someone who isn’t us. Perhaps we cross paths or share goals, perhaps only one of us can win. Perhaps they’ve underestimated us in the past. They never gave their support, only their doubts.

In sports and business there’s often focus on this other person. Superhero comics too. A rivalry is fabricated and the adventure ensues. Reading memoirs of winners brings their stories of contention. Of when they proved their worth to make the haters see. When they won the support of a former critic. In sport and in business, the common belief is that competition is healthy.

In fact, it’s not always healthy. It’s often a false economy. Seeking someone’s approval is not the best channel for your energy. Wasted energy means wasted focus. It costs potential instead of realises it.

Instead, prove yourself to the people who believe in you. Those who already root for you, wave your flag, reassure you that you’re capable. Do people proud instead of proving them wrong.

Forget about the haters and the sceptics and the cynics because even reaching all your milestones won’t convert them for life. That old maths teacher doesn’t care. The friend you fell out with has other things going on. Your previous business partner is indifferent. Letting go of the need for the approval of the uncaring is freeing.

Prove yourself to yourself. Be your own biggest fan and harshest critic. Do the things you always knew you could. Seeking only your own approval sends a strong message: that you have nothing to prove.