Sunday, 22 April 2012

Competitiveness - is it good or bad...?

I don’t like to think of myself as a competitive person.

Why?  Because I have encountered people through the course of my life for whom being competitive has been a very negative characteristic.  And whilst there have been many for whom it’s ‘negative’, there are a couple who are almost eaten up by it.  Even the most mundane conversation is a strain, as it’s turned into ‘yet another’ competition.

I’m sure most of us have, at some point, encountered the type of person I’m talking about. 

Just as way of example, imagine the flow of the following conversation:

“Hi there!  Haven’t seen you for ages. How are you?”

“Not too bad.  But I’ve had a bit of a cold.  You know how it is.  It just makes you feel a few degrees under.”

“Oh, that’s nothing.  I had flu last week – temperature of 104 – major antibiotics!”

“Poor you!”

“Oh, it’s nothing!  Two years ago, I came back from holiday with Malaria.  They wanted to hospitalise me, of course, but you know what I’m like.  Not one to complain.”

Or alternatively, the conversation could flow like this:

“Hi!  How are you?  How are the kids?”

“Great thanks!   James has settled really well into school and Sarah is a bright kid and she’s really enjoying her new Nursery.”

“That’s great!  Of course our Jimmy has skipped the first year of school because he’s so bright.  And Lucy is truly gifted, so it’s just a matter of where we apply for a scholarship…”    Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah!!!

Exhausting, isn’t it?!

Well, it exhausts me anyway.   In fact, it makes me want to scream. 

As a parent, I feel I have a right to be proud of my children – but no right to ram it down other people’s throats.  I have also, over the years, become very aware of how lucky I am.

I have two fit, healthy, bright kids.  Everything a parent dreams of.

That said, during the first five years of their lives, they have both respectively had serious (though not life threatening) health issues.  I have no doubt in my mind that those very necessary visits to hospital, witnessing other kids with far worse illnesses, have made me very aware of how lucky I am, in the greater scheme of things. 

I do not need or want my kids to be the next Usain Bolt, or Richard Branson.  I do not believe that level of success necessarily equates to happiness.

I want my kids to be successful in life – but to my mind, success in life means: being happily married; having fabulous kids; a job they find fulfilling, that provides the level of income that makes life comfortable; a good network of friends; and a happy home.

So why am I talking about competitiveness?  Well, this week I have been accused of being competitive.  Overall, I view ‘competitive’ as ‘negative’.  So it really p*ssed me off!  But the main reason I’m p*ssed off, is because I know that “underneath it all” I have this huge competitive streak!

Next weekend, I am taking part in my first ever triathlon.  Yes!  At the grand old age of 40-something, I am going to swim, cycle and run with 99 other idiots, at some un-Godly hour on a Sunday morning!  And I don’t just want to complete the course.  I want to win!  OMG – I said it!  I have barely acknowledged it to myself, but I do… I want to win my age category.  But I have so much self doubt, I am terrified I’ll just make a fool of myself.

And as I’m doing the event in total isolation (two of my friends are helping with the Marshalling – but no one I know is taking part), I have absolutely no idea what the competition is going to be like.

But why the heck do I feel a need to win anyway?  It really irritates me that I do.  That’s why I don’t want to admit it!  Why does a middle aged woman like me need to win a local novice Triathlon?  I have absolutely no idea.  But I do think that if Darwin’s theory of evolution is correct (and I largely believe it is) it must be deeply rooted in my psyche and therefore something I can do nothing about.  And if I don’t win (and I probably won’t), how will that make me feel?   Will it put me off doing any further events?  Or will it get me ‘hooked’ into training harder and competing again to do better next time?

During the course of my life, I have never wanted to have control over other people, but I have a desperate need to be ‘in control’ of myself.  Taking part in this event, where I might embarrass myself beyond belief, in front of my friends and my kids, is a step out of my comfort zone.  The honest truth is, I hate being I a position where I am flying in the dark.  And that’s how this event makes me feel.

But I can’t help feeling that at some point in our lives, all of us need to do it.  Get out of our comfort zone.  Risk making an ass of ourselves.   Push our physical and mental limits… 

In essence….

‘Live’ a bit more than we are used to.

I will do my very best to make my kids proud – and I’ll report back after next weekend.

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