I’ve been a victim of unhealthy competition. I’ve been guilty of subjecting myself to unhealthy situations, but I’ve also been guilty of negatively competing with myself. We all want to be our best but sometimes our desire to be our best trumps our ability to see our talent come to fruition. We get in our own way by doubting ourselves and our ability. We choose to focus on what isn’t as opposed to what is. We arrive at practice feeling sluggish and reticent to dive in. A cloud looms over our head, and with every step we take we feel the thickness of the air move with us.
Fortunately not every day feels like this, but I’d be lying if I said that I’ve never had an off day. Off days are like rashes. The more we scratch, the worse it gets. When we’re down it’s really hard to step out of the fog and into the light. It’s not easy to change our perspective as we fight our self-pity and unconscious desire to pile on. Like magnets we attract what we put out there, so whether or not we choose to emit this negative energy, we can choose how much of it we want to carry with us. These are the days and the moments that challenge us. They require us to reflect. We can choose to focus on all of the unhealthy relationships in our lives, the toxic people we’ve met along the way, or dwell on mistakes we’ve made in the past, or we can finally forgive ourselves, stop the avalanche in its tracks and snap out of it. Sound easy? I think not.
So what do I do to get out of my own way when the funk funks up my funky fresh? I vent. I force myself to be around people who make me feel better about life and myself. I choose to focus on the supportive people in my life and the many things I have to look forward to. As sluggish as I might feel, I walk outside, breathe in the fresh air and when I arrive at practice, I cast my blah aside and dive in. There’s no magic switch that goes off where I instantly feel better, but it’s a start. Slowly my mood shifts and I find myself smiling. I catch myself thinking back to my bad mood and wondering why I couldn’t channel all of these positive thoughts and energy earlier. I even begin to appreciate my mood transformation and part of me finds the distinct difference in my two perspectives fascinating. I appreciate my new outlook and make a mental note. I take notice and decide that next time I feel down, I will remember this moment and how much better I felt, when hours ago I thought I could never feel any better.
Why admit to having these foul moments when self-doubt and insecurities cloud my judgement and reality? I think it’s important to be honest and own our faults and imperfections. It’s ok to admit that our unhealthy competitiveness can drastically affect our mood and inhibit our creative spirit. We can’t all be perfect and despite our desires to pretend to play along and keep up with the false pretenses, I see no harm in being brutally honest. This is after all what it’s really like to be me, live in my shoes and experience a day in the life. You can have my good but with that also comes my bad or what some might call baggage.
In the spirit of healthy competition, I chose to write this article to highlight its importance and address the fact that a lot of the healthy part of competition comes from us. We can control it. We have the ability to choose what we want to focus on. We decide whether or not we want to feel sorry for ourselves or not. We can waste time obsessing over perceived “mistakes” and downplay ourselves to the point of depression. We can get temporarily lost and lose focus while we participate in the comparing and competing game. We can forget that we are the masters of our own universe and that we have the power, the control, and the ability to find our own smile and positive outlook.
In light of the competitive environment we currently find ourselves in with the Olympics and the election, we find ourselves surrounded by many forms of competitive behavior. Some we wish to admire while others we encounter with disgust. Regardless of our political views or beliefs as to which athletes should dominate the Olympic Games, we can appreciate the myriad of lessons surrounding us on a daily basis. We can see the obvious differences between healthy and unhealthy competition and how drastically different they make us feel. We can hold ourselves to higher standards despite our current disposition and remind ourselves of those we’d like to emulate. Most importantly we can stop driving ourselves crazy trying to be pillars of perfection no one ever achieves. It’s like a good friend once told me, “You keep thinking there’s some place you have to arrive to. There isn’t. Because once you get there, there will always be someplace else you want to go. If you’re always learning and living, you should never arrive. You should constantly be moving.”