The Opponent in the Mirror

Recently I came across a quote in a stickerbook I was thumbing through and eventually bought at Michael’s craft store. I fell hard and fast for this beautiful gem.

“If you’re lucky enough to be different, never change.”

Oftentimes our society believes that being different can be a bad thing. More and more  I think that stigma is shifting in a refreshing way. Most of us wonder how we’re perceived by others. We know who WE are, but do THEY really know who we are? Do you sometimes feel misunderstood?

We all have something we’re good at, something we struggle with, strengths, weaknesses, etc. But let’s examine for a moment something very specific that makes you….you. What  characteristic do you possess that you think people don’t necessarily know about you, misperceive, or maybe misunderstand? What makes you different? I’ll share with you a big part of what makes me tick as a person and why, quite possibly, some people misunderstand me.

The definition of someone that is competitive is as follows: having or displaying a strong desire to be more successful than others. 

Many people fall into this category. I think the world of sports would be nothing were it not for this breed of competitive people. These competitors keep people watching with baited breath, rooting for victory, and proud of their impressive athleticism. The world of business also has healthy competition that can be fun to observe; Apple vs. Microsoft, McDonald’s vs Burger King (sans the healthy part here), and Coke vs Pepsi-to name a few.  Our planet of animals has some serious competition when it comes to mate selection; think of peacocks, and that hilarious dancing bird of paradise.  And last but not least, humans in courtship have the competition of other potential suitors. This causes a multitude of craziness to take place – just watch The Bachelor or The Bachelorette for a drama filled crash course on this topic.

Now that you’ve conjured up these images, it’s probably hard to think that some of us humans just aren’t built with the competitive gene as it relates to others. I’m one of these people and I wholeheartedly accept that this can sometimes be misunderstood. It’s also quite boring for my competitive friends out there.

Here are four examples in case your perception of me is already off: 1.) If someone is running next to me in a 5k and the finish line is in site, I’m not inclined to speed up to beat them. 2.) I love to play Scrabble with my husband even though I only won once in 16 years. 3.) If I have a friend that’s gorgeous with a six pack and a perky butt, let’s toast to that rockin’ bod! When I’m motivated in the Spring, I’ll call her to be my accountability partner. Sidenote: I can’t get on the bandwagon with people that say , “ugh, don’t you just hate her?” Because …I don’t hate her. Why should I hate her just because she’s taking good care of herself and looks great? I’ve never understood that norm in society among women. Let’s be happy for other women! 4.) When I see how successful fellow writers or bloggers have grown to be, I’ll reach out and ask what worked best for them to see if there is something I can be improving upon. There’s no shame in learning from your mistakes. I say there’s shame in not learning from them!

The real deal is that I’m acutely focused on beating one opponent at all times – myself. This is how it’s always been. Is it weird? Maybe. But I’m not measuring myself against anyone else because no one’s life is the same, no one’s physical appearance is the same, and we are all uniquely ourselves. There’s no other way for me. So if you want to race me or compete with me- I’m not your gal. I once won a Halloween costume contest when I was 10 or 11 at a friend’s party and I was mortified. I didn’t want to be the winner because I thought people would automatically not like me! Blending in felt safer and I thought more girls would not be inclined to talk about me if I didn’t stand out. Now if that isn’t waving a carrot for someone to psycho-analyze me right now, I don’t know what is!

Looking back on that memory now, it makes sense why I’ve tried to hide some of my differences or dull my shine.  I realize now that I have a characteristic to be proud of. Being a cheerleader for others and not having the drive to compete with others is unique and I embrace it now.

My goals are for myself and no one else and I’m my toughest coach and my most critical judge. What may be an important milestone for me- may be laughable to you. That’s just what I’m getting at here. If you’re achieving what matters most to you, in my opinion, that’s all that should matter. Unless you’re on a sports team or some kind of competitive team- then you’re looking out for the team as a whole.

Recently, my son said to me after his basketball game, “I’m really proud of myself Mom. I know I played pretty good out there today.”

This was coming from a kid who just 2 months ago said he was quitting.  Turns out one of his teammates actually told him he “sucked” during practice. It took me 45 minutes of the “if you fail try, try again” spiel and anything else I could think of, to convince him to stick it out. To hear his pride this past weekend felt like a warm blanket draped around my heart. In the end, he pushed himself and didn’t measure himself against what anyone else on the team was doing.

A few months back when he had first attended a basketball clinic, the coach went around and asked each player who their favorite basketball team or player was. I could feel the stress rising in my chest wondering how he would answer this question since we don’t really watch basketball at our house.

But my son answered the question matter of factly, “I don’t watch basketball, I just like to play.” He didn’t show a morsel of embarassment. To him it was no big deal to be different than the rest of the boys in the group. Following his answer, two other little boys gave the same answer …and they did it confidently as well.

I swear to God we can really learn a thing or two from kids. Why do we feel like if we’re not like the rest of the group we’re weird? Why is being different bad? Case in point…IT’S NOT. We, ourselves, just make it that way. It’s pretend.

When I share an accomplishment with a friend, it’s because my inner butt kicker is pleased. It dawned on me recently that maybe when I’m sharing a personal accomplishment, people may view it as hyper competitive or braggy. I am quite the opposite, but if they are a newer friend and don’t know me well yet, may be this is how they’re perceiving me? Maybe I’m overanalyzing? See what I mean about the perception game? It can drive us crazy!

In closing, I’d like to say that maybe what makes you unique is something that can help people. Like that quote at the beginning, I feel lucky that it seems innate for me to cheer for other people and not feel insecure or threatened by their successes. With all the social-media-comparison- downward -spiral stories I’ve read, I’ll take this difference to be a good thing. My opponent- she’s in the mirror.  There’s nothing like kicking your own butt at something because it’s always going to be win win situation.

 

 

 

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