I’m only competitive about things that don’t matter
If you put me in a real competition, I wilt. During my brief and early years playing basketball, I would pass off the ball to another player, worried that I would be the one to mess things up for the team. When I played tennis, I spent many matches apologizing to my opponent for errant balls and well-placed shots alike. I think what it comes down to is that I want relative strangers to like me.
With my family and friends, however, I’m ruthless. There are curse words exchanged over card games. We keep tally of how many times board games have been won. Brackets exist to choose which activities we’ll do. We take each other’s money. Winning at things that don’t matter is about the trash talk, not the glory.
I also participate in competitions that no one knows about but me. At the gym, I pick someone on a treadmill and vow to run longer than them (whether they started running before me doesn’t matter…in fact, it’s ideal). I set timers and race the clock to see whether I can clean the bathroom in less than 20 minutes. I test the limits of how long I can go without getting my oil changed (okay, that might just be laziness).
There are times I don’t realize I’m being competitive. Today, at the yoga class I was in, there were some new guys. And when they left, exhausted, halfway through class, I felt a stab of satisfaction that I had some strength left. Secretly, at PLC meetings, I hope to find out that my class is doing better than other people’s (spoiler – we’re not).
I got a little worried that I enjoy other people’s defeat. But then I remembered that I only revel in a victory when it’s about something that doesn’t matter. I want people to like me. I don’t want them to lose.
I do want to feel like my hard work is paying off. That the time spent going to yoga classes really has increased my endurance. That the hours I put into my classroom come back to me in the form of better student performance. I’m finding that this exchange of work for results isn’t always a simple transaction.
These things matter to me. So instead of a win, I’m trying to find new ways of defining success.