My questionable relationship with competition

I’ve competed in a lot of different ways in my lifetime: In softball and field hockey as a youngster, in music through high school and college, in rec league sports in my mid-20s, as a competitive cyclist from late-20s until last year…I had some real successes as a competitor when I was young but, as it is with a lot of adults, those successes become less frequent when you aren’t just competing with people your own age but also the entire adult population. It can be really daunting for perfectionist types like me, and I’ve learned how to let a lot of things go, but one thing became starkly apparent while I raced my bike: I have developed a really unhealthy relationship with competition.

When I say unhealthy, I mean really unhealthy. If I wasn’t in the podium after a cyclocross race, I was usually pretty disappointed with myself, and I’d progressed to the point of having to race with pro and elite ‘cross women when I knew deep down that I’d never even come close to approaching that level. I was going to have to work really, really hard just to not get lapped, and maybe I’d be lucky enough to not finish dead last. Even worse, I’d become miserable and felt run down almost all of the time. The straw that broke this camel’s back was when a friend of mine was leaving me in the dust throughout a 60-mile ride when she had bronchitis. It was time for me to move on.

I decided to move away from competition altogether. I hiked, paddled, ran, and started lifting. I loved not being beholden to a training schedule that I enjoyed and didn’t feel like pointless torture. It felt good to just do whatever I wanted foe the first time in seven years.

Then my colleague/coach said it: “You should try a meet.”

A weightlifting meet. The thought made my stomach sink.

But what if I could actually compete and not get too far gone this time? Was I capable of competing and actually enjoying it without beating myself up and comparing myself to others?

I’ve decided to at least give it one try. I’m doing my first meet this weekend. I’m nervous and have taken note of some of my usual obsessive thoughts and tendencies. Will they become negative players in this endeavor? Time will tell.

In the meantime, I’ve told myself that I don’t have to compete. No one is paying me to do this and it’s supposed to be fun, which it typically is. I can always just lift for myself, on my own terms and, if I’m being honest, that sounds pretty awesome. I love the challenge of Olympic lifting and would have no problem continuing with it just to get better and stronger.

But first, I’ll compete this weekend.

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