Last week, I played a satisfying competitive tennis match. My partner and I won narrowly in a third-set tiebreak, which was described by a teammate watching us as a nail-biter till the very end. It very much felt that way to the two of us on the court. Until the deciding point, the match really could have gone either way.
Competitiveness is a funny thing. Perhaps it’s the way I was raised, I never felt comfortable owning the competitive part of me. I guess I have a hard time acknowledging it, because it seems that I can’t be competitive and be nice and loving at the same time. But tennis definitely brings out the competitiveness in me. It goes above and beyond wanting to win, though. Sure, victory is sweet, but I want much more to know after a match that I played well and felt proud of my game. For instance, I love that I used to be scared of the net, and now I’m regarded as a good net player at my level. That’s validation that I’ve improved my game. In many ways, I’d much rather lose a truly competitive neck-to-neck match than win an easy one without feeling challenged. Where’s the satisfaction in the latter?
All that got me thinking: What’s at the root of competitiveness? Is it all bad? And, if not, how may we leverage competitiveness for good?
The Two Faces of Competitiveness
When I thought about it, competitiveness is just another way of seeking success, as to win is to succeed. For me personally, it’s an attempt to prove my self-worth. If I could beat another person at something, surely that would mean I deserve to be here. Wanting to win, to succeed came from my subconscious drive to feel deserving. Even though the person I compete with often is myself, it still comes from the same place. That is, if I could prove that I’m getting better and better, I won’t become irrelevant or unwanted. It all comes from a deeply seated fear that I could disappear off the face of the earth and no one would notice or care; no one would miss me. I simply don’t matter.
The above description is my “unconscious” competitiveness that runs on auto-pilot. It’s rooted in fear—fear of being unworthy, fear of not mattering. It underpins the perpetual self-improvement trap that I wrote about recently. I was gravely afraid that if I didn’t constantly improve myself, someone would catch onto the fact that I don’t deserve to be here.
If I were to ground myself in Love, instead of fear, my innate competitiveness would look different. That is, the desire to win would simply become the intention to do my best no matter what. It comes with the unconditional acceptance that, by virtue of being human, my best will look different from one day to the next. From that expansive, loving place of intending to do my best, it’s always good enough. I won’t be judging myself for falling short of some yardstick that makes me feel less than deserving. My desire to win won’t be an attempt to uphold my mask of having it together, even if I may be falling apart inside. Rather, it’d mean pouring my heart into living life fully and passionately and, hopefully, to leave the world around me a little better than how I found it—by inspiring others to connect more to their hearts and live from that center, as I continue to open my own here in this writing space. It’d mean pouring that drive to be the best I can be, do the best I can do into whatever I undertake, so that it benefits all of whom it’s intended to serve.
So, in writing this blog post, I’m redefining competitiveness as a desire to deliver the best for all involved. This redefinition also calls for shifting my grounding from fear to Love. As my weekly meditation on Sunday morning reminded me, all I ever need to remember is Love. If I can remember that, I’ll always know what to do in any situation. That includes how to own the competitiveness within me without judging it, and to ground it in a place that makes it an asset to how I live, love and serve.
When cast in the right light, competitiveness can be a beautiful thing.
What do you think? What’s your take on competitiveness?
Photo credit: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/
If you’re new here, welcome! I invite you to subscribe to my blog via email or RSS feed. Simply look for the “Subscribe & Connect” box below.