When I was in high school, I had to be the best at everything (except gym… we’re not going to talk about that).
I had to be the smartest. I had to be the quickest. I had to be pretty and have perfect hair. I had to get 100% on everything.
Looking back on that now, I realize how much stress that was… focusing on making sure I was better than someone else. Because it wasn’t about being the best person I could be. It was about being better. It didn’t matter that my “better” was excellent or mediocre. I just had to blow everyone else out of the water so I could be the best.
And it was easy. I was actually a really smart kid and I never had to work at anything and it left me ill equipped for the world. When I went off to college and suddenly there were a lot of people who were better than me at a lot of things, I caved. I quit. I ran.
I gave up.
I found a job I was good at after drifting for a while. I went back to being the smartest and the quickest and the prettiest in my little job that fit my skills. (MATH.. I know.. I LOVE IT)
But I didn’t grow at all. I settled into this little life and it was… fine.
I’m a perpetual learner so I’m always taking a class here or there but if it wasn’t easy or if I had to work too hard to be the BEST, I would give up and say “well, it’s not like I wanted to do that anyway”. I didn’t want to look stupid. I didn’t want to look silly.
Until someone said to me “Don’t measure yourself by someone else’s yardstick“.
It changed everything. I realized that I didn’t have to beat someone else, be better than someone else or to WIN in order to feel good about myself. All I had to do was be the best “me” I could be.
The more I practiced this, the better person I became. The happier person I became. The less it became about “them vs me” and more about lifting myself up and challenging myself. I’d goof up and I’d laugh it off. I’d fall down and giggle… if I looked stupid, I’d chuckle and try again. And if someone asked for help, I’d give it.. and if someone wanted to offer me help, I’d accept it. If someone else succeeded where I struggled, I felt happy for them. This mindset is liberating.
But it also means that I no longer feel comfortable thinking or saying competitive things or throwing around “smack talk”. I realize that everyone has their own yardstick and that I want them to be better, happier people too. At the risk of sounding too hippie dippie, I want everyone to feel like they are “winners” . To take a look at their own yardstick and decide on their own personal betterment instead of “beating” someone else.
Not everyone is like this and I respect that. But I find it hurtful and, well, MEAN when I hear things like “we’re going to beat them” and they can “suck it” and “this isn’t the city of sisterly love”.
And yeah, those have all come up lately. I get it. That motivates some people. But not me. It makes me squirm. I currently belong to a group that will be competing soon and there is a lot of that going around. And that’s ok. But it means that I need to find a way to motivate myself to do better without having this negativity or old habits take hold again. Because it would be way too easy to fall back into the ugly mentality of beating someone else.
Recently, my friend Bing was at the International Blues Challenge and I was watching him advance and advance (via the internet… the Challenge was in Tennessee after all) and every time he would post about it on his Facebook Page, he would be talking about how great the other acts are and what an honor to be among all this talent. And that every time that he’d advance, he’d have to dig a little deeper into himself to pull out just a little bit more.
On his blog, he says :
Joe Whitmer likes to tell the acts, at orientation, that the IBC is a “challenge” and not a competition. We’re not in some kind of battle of the bands where we’re out for each other’s throats. We’re competing against the score sheet; against ourselves, basically. It’s in the spirit of the blues family that the acts have a camaraderie with each other, helping out with set change overs and wishing for spectacular sets.
You can read his whole post about his experience here:Big Time in Bluestown: Bing Futch
As a Patron I got to see the raw footage of the quarter finals, the semi finals and then the finals. I have seen Bing perform live several times so I’ve seen him do some of these blues songs before and they are always great. But at the semi-finals and then the finals, I saw something amazing. He kept pulling out more.. and more.. and… more.. I don’t know where it was coming from but holy shit that dude was on fire at the end of the finals. He took best guitar, by the way, which is pretty funny considering he plays a dulcimer but he earned it. He earned it by being the best Bing he could be.
This has been my inspiration. My reminder that I don’t have to be the better than everyone. I don’t need to rub anyone’s nose in it. I don’t have to beat someone else. I can just be a better me. I can work at a better personal performance every time. To see where I can go. To see if I can dig up just a little more… and a little more…
This is my motivation. This is my kind of winning.