Watching world champs from the sidelines is a mixed bag. Of course I love cheering on team USA and Bowerman. But in my specific events, the 800 and 1500, there is also this sense of regret and sadness.
Running from the moment you start on your first school team is a mix of personal and group mentality. You have training partners, or teammates if you are scoring points for a group competition, but the focus is primarily on the individual performance. Everyone in that sense is a competitor.
From the beginning there is the push/pull of supporting teammates, and also fighting to win. How can someone be authentic in both? I think part of the solution is acknowledging that it’s okay to be competitive.
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Sometimes I feel the “women supporting women” platitudes imply we all have to be peppy and loving all the time. In my mind, anyone in a competitive environment who doesn’t want to beat everyone else is either lying or a saint. Or maybe I’m just the worst. But no matter how enlightened I’m feeling, I’ll sometimes see a successful person and find myself searching for something wrong, some flaw. I don’t know if that will ever go away. But I don’t see what good comes from pretending it’s not there. My competitiveness is a strength in many ways. I think I can be more authentic in my support of others when I don’t try to hide it.
What I can do is acknowledge my competitive nature, and then move past it.
And how does that happen? Through practice. Saying good job to someone after they beat me. Or wishing them well and really meaning it. Practicing “loving kindness,” as they say. That’s why handshakes after competitions are so important. Sometimes it doesn’t feel authentic, maybe it isn’t at first. But it actually does get easier, more genuine. It even starts to feel good. I do believe that we can and should practice kindness like any other trait, like our lives, our happiness, our community depend on it. Because in many ways, they do. ⠀ ⠀
Photo from @idly_drifting_crackerjack