August 13, 2012

Life Is Not An Olympic Sport


Athlete on Podium

As the 2012 Olympic Games wrapped up, the talk about how an athlete has been training for four years for “this one moment” is finally coming to an end. In many Olympic sports the difference between winning and losing can be shorter than a snap of your fingers. In that one split-second you either win or become fodder for journalists to pick you apart. But even winners aren’t free from criticism or critique.

Each day I see people competing with someone as if there’s going to be a podium and national anthem at the end. But there is no end. It’s a made up game people play. Rather than just doing their best, I see (whether on Facebook, Twitter, Blogs or real life) people treating so many aspects of life like it’s their one-shot at the gold medal.

What bothers me most is that somehow I’m seen as a competitor. That many of you are seen as competitors, when we aren’t even playing the game. Somehow my own personal desire to try to be excellent at what I do, every day, means that I’ve stepped up and have become a competitor in life.

Here’s the thing, though. I’m not. Sure there are aspects of life when you are competing – getting a job, trying out for a play or choir, maybe a promotion – but, in general, I don’t see it that way. Maybe it’s all the pep-talks from my Grandfather growing up. You know, the ones you probably got too about always doing your best, never giving up, keeping focus, not looking around to compare yourself. Those. I know I’m not the only one who got them.

Online it’s very easy to get sucked into being part of the game. Facebook status updates, photos and comments allow other people into our lives. We invite it. Twitter and Instagram and FourSquare all offer an immediate opportunity to for others to be included in what we do and add their 2-cents. We’re out there, no longer just doing our thing but openly and actively saying “Look at me!”. It’s easy to think we’re competing in this so-called game of life.

I shouldn’t compare. Still, I do. But what frustrates me is that there are others who feel that everything is a competition. And there is a need to put me (or you) down or make excuses when I do have success. It’s one of the reasons I don’t talk a lot about my daughter. It’s like I’m an unwitting participant in this game. I don’t have the gear but I’m present, the starting gun sounds and all of a sudden there’s a swarm and a buzz and an expectation that I’m playing this game they created.

I’m not ashamed to be a mom to an exceptionally intelligent daughter. I’m not ashamed to say that BabyGirl started playing violin at 3. And I’m certainly not embarrassed that she was able to read at 18 months old. But somehow her success means that there’s less success out there for the rest of the world because I’m hoarding it.  I hate feeling like I need to hide my or my family’s success and happiness because it becomes a reason to be snarky or rude. And OK to call me names, make everything a competition and pursue me despite the fact that I’m not playing the game. And that does bother me, despite my strong attempts at ignoring these self-appointed competitors.

I see it on social media and in traditional media. This idea that one person’s success means that there’s less to go around. That someone who’s worked hard to put out a book, pursued a great opportunity, or worked hard and is being rewarded in some way has cornered the market of winning and is somehow keeping others from finding the same success.

The only way life could be compared to an Olympic Sport is that some days you win and some days you don’t. But winning doesn’t mean everyone around you is a loser. And losing doesn’t mean you get to blame other people for being better. And, to be honest, losing isn’t about failure. Losing is a comparison. This is my life. Your life. Our being awesome and terrific every day will never deplete the supply that exists. So why not aim for that every day?

Someone else’s success doesn’t mean I’ve failed. Or you’ve failed. But it does seem that the genuine happiness of yesteryear for a friend’s success is waning. And that’s very sad. Because at the end of each day I’m not waiting for someone to flash up a score evaluating my performance and determining my level of difficulty. No one is evaluating a photo (gosh I hope not!) because someone else had a day nearly as amazing as mine. And I don’t need to knock someone out or have them fall or fail or pull up lame so I can be declared the winner.

I am a winner because I say I am. And my winning doesn’t mean you can’t be a winner too.

Do you feel that others want to compete with you even though you’re not in the game?

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