“It’s not always a competition,” I say to my children on an almost daily basis about something. My two boys race to get their clothes on, slurp down cereal, run to the bus stop. It is always a competition with them and as a mom it is exhausting trying to keep up with the feelings of the loser. But at the same time, I totally get where they are coming from. I am a typical type A, highly driven, stress laden, competitive person. I made everything a competition from day one. Grades, friends, boys, sports, heck, I was even the damn Prom Queen. Because. I. Always. Win. And happens when a highly competitive person doesn’t win? Emotions happen. Lots, and lots of emotions.
I had a hard time in college. I went from being a big fish in a small pond to a mediocre fish in an ocean. I had to work so much harder at everything and it turned out that I wasn’t prepared and I didn’t have the guts to pull it off. My grades were decent, my track times were decent, my relationships were lukewarm. And since I wasn’t a stellar anything anymore, I spiraled into a horrible black hole of depression. None of it was necessary of course. Looking back now I see that my GPA (3.7) was completely fine. I set a lot of great PRs on the track and I learned a lot about running while on the team. I performed much better than I gave myself credit for. It wasn’t poor performances that got me down, it was the stress of trying so damn hard.
This temperament makes being social difficult. I don’t have fellow athletes; I have arch nemeses. When I see times posted from former teammates, I can’t help but compare myself (especially if they used to be faster than me). Oh, she’s had two kids since college, well I’ve birthed four! Oh, she ran a 3:32, yeah, well, I ran a 3:22! He runs 35 miles per week, puh-leeze, I run 40! I know, unhealthy, right?! But it’s my nature. I am driven to go a little faster, go a little farther than someone, anyone else. This need to out-perform keeps me going, which I suppose is a good thing, but I do worry that it will lead to either injury or another bout of depression. Being a competitive person means that I am switched on almost all of the time, and, frankly, it’s exhausting. It’s also not sending a very good message to my kids.
I’m trying to turn over a new leaf, to take on a different outlook. Yes, it’s a race & times matter, but it’s about bettering myself, not being better than someone else. I’m going to have to stop comparing. I’m going to have to stop analyzing data and stalking runners on Athlinks. I’m going to have to start practicing what I preach. I know…I know… I need to start being a gracious winner inside and out, AND I need to be a gracious loser. If I won’t stand a tantrum from a six year old who came in 2nd to the bus stop, then I really shouldn’t be tantruming over someone who wanted it more and edged me out.