If that question sends you into a feeling of outrage or at least mild discomfort, you’re not alone!
For me, when described as competitive, I have always unleashed a ream of justifications for my behaviours and what may be mistaken for competitiveness. I saw it as a criticism or an insult, even!
I am an avid game player, and I like to win. I enter into a game with a spirit of giving it a go, and not ‘taking people down’ (like my husband does!). I feel great pride when I do win, but this comes from being really proud of my performance, and not necessarily the outcome that it generated.
A bit of post-game analysis normally concludes that I could have done better. So why don’t I? I think it’s because I don’t want it enough.
But surely not wanting to win enough means that I am not competitive! I am so focused on ‘did I watch the ball?’, ‘did I move my feet into the right place?’, ‘did I see the glaring open space down the tram lines?’. I am so focused on doing it right, and well, that I haven’t got time to think about winning! I don’t even keep score most of the time!
This was the subject of a conversation with my Physio, Chris, this morning. We concluded that if we were playing tennis against Rafa Nadal we wouldn’t expect to win, but we would still be aiming for a mini-win, like being able to hit a shot back, or return a serve. The elation that we get comes from being proud of ourselves for not having given up, and for doing our best, I think. It’s really perfectionism in our sphere of capability!
When I play Gruffalo snap with my daughter, my husband gives me that look “Oh hun, let her win”. And I’ll be honest, I’m thinking why should I?! People don’t let people win in the really world, so why should I do it in my house. Some people might be shocked by that, but I feel like I am teaching my 4 year old a valuable lesson.
On sports day last year, my friends all rolled their eyes at me when I corrected my daughter’s view of the children ‘all being winners’. I said, “no darling, there is only one winner, the rest will try and do the best they can”. Of course in this day and age, all the children get medals – in her eyes though it was a reward for having done her best. Meanwhile, there I am sprinting as fast as I can in the Mum’s race! No medal….
So why do I still feel defensive about the label?
The differentiator for me is sense of humour – if when playing a game you can’t get through it without a tantrum, and you’re in a bad mood when you lose, then that sums up the negative connotation of competitive, for me. This is the part that I get defensive about. I have fun on the tennis court whether I win or lose. It is playing worse than I deem possible that puts me into a low mood, one that allows my inner critic to take over.
So focusing on having fun as well as doing our best has got to be the key, right?
So are you doing your best? This is the hot topic for my interview with the world’s number one coach, Marshall Goldsmith.
You can hear about it here, and get access to his free gifts to help with doing your best: www.takingaleap.co.uk.
When you sign up you will also get access to a range of other interviews from Coaches, Speakers, Authors, an ex-professional football player, and holistic health practitioners.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, so please share them with me here or @susieramroop on twitter. You may just conclude that I am still being defensive about being competitive!