No, Seriously, Go Ahead — You Win
November 28, 2012 § 27 Comments
I’ve figured something out about myself: I’m not a good competitor.
Lately, it seems like everything is a race or a contest, doesn’t it? Hurry, hurry, hurry, get X before it’s gone, nab a spot on the list, be first in line, scream the loudest and get the most attention, raise the most accomplished kids, obtain the most… whatever. Bleh. It makes me tired just thinking about all that competing.
Don’t get me wrong — I am kind of a perfectionist, and I enjoy pushing myself to do my best at something. So I am competitive in the sense that I continually try to outdo myself. I just don’t particularly enjoy being drawn into competition with anyone else. (Why? I don’t know. Maybe I just don’t like the idea of being anyone’s opponent. You know fighting makes me nervous.)
There are people, however, who are natural competitors — they love turning anything and everything into a rivalry. I prefer to respond to them with nonsense, or better yet, not respond at all. If someone says, “Hurry!” I will slow down. If someone asks, “Whose cupcakes do you think are better, yours or mine?” I will say, “Oh, these are cupcakes? I thought they were earmuffs.” If someone pulls that “my outfit is more fabulous than your outfit” bullshit, I’ll slap a Chiquita banana sticker on my forehead and say, “This is vintage.” Admittedly, I’m a bit contrary. But I also just don’t want to engage in a competition about something not worth competing over.
A friend asked me recently about my work ethic. The question was something about whether motivation comes from others or from ourselves. I said, I am inspired by others; I am encouraged by others; I am educated by others… but my drive to do good work comes from a desire to do my best, not a desire to beat out someone else. Can’t we each just do the best we can? Why stir up a competition where there is none?
Here’s a metaphor: Say I’m in a sandbox, happily building castles with my little blue shovel. Someone walks up, steps into the sandbox, and says, “Let’s have a contest to see whose castles are better!”
Me: “Nah, that’s OK. Here, take my blue shovel. I’ll go play with another shovel in that sandbox over there.”
Person: “No — I want to race against you and have a sandcastle WAR!”
Me: “Yeah, no. I don’t want to do that. Um… hey, look, I can turn my eyelids inside out!”
Me: “Don’t make me do this.”
Person: “FIGHT ME.”
Me: [chucks shovel at person’s head] “Fine.”
Maybe I’m just a wuss. I know competition can be useful and fun and productive, and there’s a time and a place for it. I know it’s a skill to be able to yell, “I’M GONNA KICK YOUR ASS INTO NEXT WEEK, DONKEYBALLS,” then turn around and shake hands and say, “Good game!”
(And yes, if you absolutely insist, I will kick your ass into next week and call you Donkeyballs. It’s not that I don’t know how to compete; I just don’t like to do it all the time.)
The thing is, we already have to compete so much. We have to compete to get into school; we have to compete for jobs; we have to compete to put in the winning bid on a house; etc. Isn’t that enough? Maybe it’s naive, but I’d rather focus on what I can control than on what others are doing — whether we’re talking work, keeping up with the Joneses, or just life in general. The “who do I have to beat?” mindset turns everything into a contest. And that’s just no fun. (To me, anyway.)
So this is for all the combative types out there: You want to squeeze your car into the turn lane in front of mine? Fine. You want the last word in the conversation? Have it. You want to yammer on about how perfect your kids are every chance you get? Knock yourself out.
Unless I knock you out first.
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In other news…
I love sharing! Share, share, share. It’s what makes the Internet fun. Thank you for sharing funny things with me and for sharing what you find here with others.
Note: There’s a difference between good-sharing (saying, “Hey, look at this!” and linking back to it or mentioning where it came from, as most people do, like the Fug and Refinery29 did, because they’re awesome) and bad-sharing (lifting something and intentionally passing it off as one’s own work). Just say no to bad-sharing. It’s Wrong with a capital W — plus it’s just not good manners. It also may or may not also cause an oozing skin rash. (Look, I can’t explain karma. I’m just telling you what I hear.) Many sincere thanks to everyone who practices good-sharing. Love live the Internet!