Should I Enter the Competition? A Resolution...
“Where there is competition, one cannot attain (true) knowledge. -Dada Bhagwan
I don’t believe in new years resolutions. They have always felt too contrived to me. To set goals once a year seems like a way to inevitably set myself up for failure. What I do believe in is making resolutions. I am continually setting goals to help improve myself. I work hard to try to achieve these goals.
My latest goal, set just a few weeks ago, is a really tough one for me. My goal is to stop being so competitive. People who know me will tell you that this is a very lofty goal. My close friends can tell you countless stories dating back many years. There are stories that I used to find funny, but am no longer proud to tell, when I literally drew blood during high school card games or got in heated verbal discussions with family over what was meant to be a fun board game. Just last year, I literally fell of a treadmill at my local gym while trying to keep up with the person (who I’m assuming was an elite runner) on the treadmill next to me. I hobbled out of the gym with scratches, bruises and scrapes on my legs and a very bruised ego.
From my earliest childhood I remember feeling a sense of competition with my older brother. As a very young child I always wanted to be doing what ever he was doing. I didn’t want to wait the three years to catch up with him; I wanted to be doing it RIGHT now. As we got older, and to this day I have always felt a sense of unease around my brother and have never felt good enough for him. For many years I fought hard to try and gain his love and approval in any way possible. Unfortunately, I have always felt like my efforts were never enough and the harder I tried the worse it got.
I married a very competitive man. During our fourteen and a half years of marriage there was always a sense of competition between us. In the relationship where we should have been one another’s biggest supporter I always felt a general sense of trying to be better than one another. This was not healthy for either of us and in doing this we set a really unhealthy example for our children.
I recently got in a ridiculous verbal battle with my cousin who is truly one of my favourite people. I was getting increasingly frustrated as I passionately defended my opinion to him and felt that he was not listening to my message and continually repeating one message over and over again. I turned to one of my best friends, who has a great deal of knowledge about the topic that my cousin and I were debating for advice. This friend has always been one of my biggest cheerleaders and is incredibly honest with me. I hoped that he might give me some good points to help defend my position in this debate. Instead of giving me sparing points my friend taught me a much better lesson by saying, “If he’s unwilling to listen to your message why do you keep engaging in the debate?”
I came to the realization that my competitive nature is not always a good thing during a recent group therapy session. According to the therapists leading the group we have gelled better than most groups and they have allowed us a great deal of flexibility to give one another advice. Thanks to this we developed the ability to be completely raw and honest with one another. We have told each other about our lowest lows and highest highs and have a very strong sense of mutual understanding and respect. During our second last session another member of the group, who has become a very dear friend, looked around the room with tears in her eyes,
“I feel like everyone else came so much farther than I did during group and I’m happy for you, I really am, but it’s hard for me to end group knowing this.”
I was so surprised to hear this because I had noticed the transformations in her each week as, step by step, she had made tremendous changes. Then her eyes settled on me, “you are truly one of the most confident people I know. I hope to be where you are one day.”
I paused and teared up. This is feedback that I get often; I have even been told that I can come across as too confident. In viewing this confidence people often believe that I don’t need the same kind of encouragement and support that others do and at times feel intimidated by me.
I met her gaze, “I’m not always as confident as I come across.” I confessed.
Another friend, who understands the other people in the group with a depth that continually astounds us and gets us thinking, looked at me,
“Do you think it’s because you are a teacher?” she asked.
My mind flashed to countless parent teacher interviews where I felt the need to approach the parents with complete and utter confidence. I thought of an interview several years ago where a hulking dad who was over six feet tall towered over me yelling at me. I managed to appear confident during the interview, walking out of the school and driving home. It was only when I arrived home that I locked myself in my room alone and starting shaking and crying unable to fully process what had just happened but knowing how unsafe I had felt. Despite this I walked back into the school the following day with the appearance of the same “confidence” that I had walked out with.
“Yes, being a teacher is definitely part of it.” I admitted.
Another member of our group turned to the woman who had initially made the confession.
“Who are you measuring yourself against?” she asked “because as long as you are measuring yourself against the progress of others you are never going to win.”
While reflecting after group I had an acute realization that my life long competitive nature was not a healthy thing for me. I realized that in striving to appear perfect I was only hurting myself and not fooling anybody else. I made a goal to only compete against myself going forward.
So, I laced up my shoes tight to start the race against myself. Unfortunately, what I’ve come to realize since then is that I am, without question, the harshest competition that I will ever encounter. I’m in the process of gaining understanding about how I can have a growth mindset and continually strive to be better and improve while still being kind to myself. I’m better at this some days than others. On days when I am feeling particularly vulnerable, tired or things aren’t going my way this is the most difficult.
In order to help myself with this I am choosing to surround myself with not only my most positive minded friends and family but also my kindest friends and family. Friends who know about some of my most difficult times, who understand that, at times, my confidence is a complete façade and are willing to gently remind me that while striving to get better it’s okay to stumble and fall. In fact, it is in those stumbles and falls, in those moments when I’m willing to be vulnerable and display my weaknesses that I will truly improve.
In this realization I have noticed that things are improving. At the gym I no longer look at the speed of the treadmill next to me. I follow my own heart monitor to ensure that I stay in my recommended zones and in doing so the number of splat points I earn has gone up.
In friendships I have done a lot of reflecting about who I am able to trust to confess my worries and weaknesses to. Even some of my most long time friendships have grown to a deeper level as we have discussions about these worries with one another. In other friendships I have learned to enjoy things at a more surface level of making one another laugh and have fun but not talking about anything beyond that. I’m better able to ask for help when I need it and set boundaries as necessary.
In yoga I’m willing to take the modifications that my body needs and am no longer trying to contort my body into poses that I’m incapable of. One of my yoga instructors gave some really great advice at the end of a class when he said, “always remember that the true yoga starts when you walk out that door.” What incredible wisdom…I’ve become more fascinated with the ideas found in yoga philosophy and what they can teach me. I’m studying it and understanding it more each day.
Going forward I have promised to continually remind myself that I am in competition with no one and I’m going to work on being a better sport with myself. I’m going to work to try and stop comparing myself with others. In doing this I refer to the quote by Zen Shin that says, “ A flower does not think of competing with the flower next to it, it just blooms.” I’m hopeful that I will be an annual flower that will continue to bloom each season. Will there be times when this flower will wilt a bit…yes…but hopefully it will continue to bloom each year.