Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Competition Expedition

One time I read an article in Oprah Magazine that said what we don't like in other people is something we are probably doing ourselves. For example, if you dislike someone because you think they are a know-it-all? Then you are likely a know-it-all yourself. Interesting line of thought, isn't it? That article really made an impact on me, and whenever I find myself feeling defensive, I try to call this concept to the front of my mind.

So lately, and really for the past year or so, I've been noticing a lot of competitive vibes in the world. In response to these feelings, I have been looking back to my own self, wondering if it is me who competes with the people who I feel compete with me... Do you know what I'm talking about?

But more than that, this line of thought has caused me to think about competition in general, which I think, frankly, is a bit of an epidemic. Allow me to share my observations with you...

Have you noticed how competitive parents are? Parents almost always want their kid(s) to be the "best." And if not the "best," then the "favorite," or the "star," or the "smartest" or the "most athletic" or whatever the case may be. Imagine the pressure we, as parents, are putting onto our kids, sometimes without even knowing it. It is hard not to feel competitive in this world, though, because society puts the pressure squarely on our shoulders before we even realize they are putting it there, and the next thing you know, you find yourself worrying about things that you normally might not even care about. And even when you guard against it, and try with all your might not to let the pressure get to you, you will still find yourself smack in the middle of a competitive pressure cooker.

Allow me to give you an example... Last fall was Britt's first year in Pop Warner Football, and he was the biggest kid on the team. He was also the nicest kid on the team, and he didn't want to hurt anyone or get hurt, which in turn meant he didn't want to tackle or "hit" anyone. I worked all season with him, practicing "getting low" and trying to get him to be aggressive, just like everyone at his football practice wanted him to do and be. Finally, near the end of the season, I just let it all go and stopped worrying about what other people thought and stopped encouraging Britt to make some tackles. And guess what happened? As soon as I took that pressure off my own shoulders, it in turn fell right off Britt's shoulder pads, and he started tackling.

I have felt competition from people over so many things - my weight, my house, my kids, my running, my decorating, my yard, my car, my hair, my clothes - all the things everyone feels competitive about, especially if you are a woman. So I have been working extra hard to NOT compete with people, because I think I am just as competitive as the next person. I try really hard not to compete with people and to compliment other people, and I do get my feelings hurt when I don't get it in turn, but I have to get really "real," here, and admit that I am truly just as competitive as the next person, and maybe even a bit more, if I'm being totally honest (which I am trying to be). I don't like this aspect of myself, and it is one of those personal issues I'm working on. My goal is to just worry about my own life and not get wrapped up in being "better" or "the best," or anything other than just me. I think it will take practice...

I grew up in the most competitive environment known to mankind, though, so it is ingrained in me. It won't be an easy obstacle for me to overcome. Even though I had the best childhood a child could possibly have, I grew up in a place that judges you before you are even five years old, and if you did something "wrong" (in their eyes only, mind you) as a three year old, they will remember it for the rest of your life and never let it go. Truly, it doesn't matter if you were a child or not - once the opinion is formed, that's it. So imagine growing up in a community like that, a place where people are judged to the harshest degree on their weight, their grades, their athletic ability, their clothes, their vehicle, the house they live in, the family they come from... Talk about pressure! And even though I don't feel competition to that extreme today, I still see it in the world as a whole. Look at the state of our national education - we're in a dither because we don't test as high as other countries. Good grief! Does it really matter?

So I'm grateful for the opportunity to tone my competitive nature down. This means being less sensitive in some ways, and more sensitive in others. It means a lot of things, but I don't want my beautiful little B's to grow up with that horrendous pressure. As long as they are doing their best, then I'm going to be satisfied, even if it takes me the rest of my life to get there. Because really, what does it matter in the grand scheme of things who is "better" or "the best?" I don't think Jesus cares who is "winning" nearly as much as we do...

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