Sometimes, as an adult, we lose ways to channel and release our energy.
I always had sports. Always. If I had a bad day, one round of batting practice was all I needed to reshape my mood. Heck, on good days, there was nothing like winning the Tee Game before heading home; it affirmed my place in the world, even if just for an evening.
Now, I don’t have that thing I relied on for so long. Exercising, while important, is not the same as competing.
It’s important for me to find ways to compete. Otherwise, I’m denying myself a part of who I am. I try to find it in impacting—though small—doses. My goal is to compete against myself: at work, during a workout, and achieving my goals, I aim to be better than I was yesterday. In the back of my mind, I ask if I can be more creative, productive, or hard-working than the day before.
And sometimes, I ask my husband to play a game of rummy. That usually does the trick, too.
Compete to Exist
Originally posted in the October 2015 edition of the CU Denver Advocate.
If this world is classified between the competitive and the passive, I know exactly where I stand. I hate to lose. However, not a lot of people around me know how much I care, and how much I truly want to be the victor. Make no mistake, I thrive off my desire to compete.
Some people are born with an instinct to win and take no prisoners. That wasn’t my situation. I was like many in my generation—socialized to think that participation is the most important goal, and that effort is what earns a trophy. In fact, all of my little league uniforms said “we all win” in big block letters on the back, in the place of last names.
As I got older, I became conflicted. I was practically trained to be the first person to speak up after a terrible loss—to say hey, it’s okay, at least we had fun.
But was it fun?
I saw coaches get fired for having unsuccessful seasons. There were parents yelling at their children for not taking things seriously enough. Sometimes I put in loads of effort without much recognition. We all played, but we also cried a lot.
I’ve always been afraid that if I acted like I wanted to win, I’d be considered an asshole. People would think of me as the person who takes things—like high school sports—too seriously. I feared that I’d grow into the aunt at Thanksgiving who didn’t know how to lose at scrabble and makes the whole family feel uncomfortable.
Since then, I’ve discovered that there’s a difference between cockiness and confidence.
Embrace the Difference
Here’s the deal: it’s okay to care if you win or you lose. It’s okay to want to win, because you know you deserve it. You put the time in, and the work. Wanting to win is guilt-free when you accept that you have the capabilities to succeed. The tricky part is losing with grace, even when the “W” meant everything.
Don’t be afraid to reveal that competitive side. Push yourself in the classroom, in the workplace, and on the court. Just remember that winning feels best when it’s earned, and deserved. And nobody likes a sore loser.