This first time I truly understood competition was in middle school. I took part in a sports event at my school, during which we all had to fulfill several athletic disciplines including high jump. We all received fun medals for being part of the event and afterwards my teacher approached me and asked if I was interested in joining the city-wide competition in high jump as I had jumped highest in my age group.
I was excited, felt honored and went to the competition, this time aware that it was one. I joined a group of girls near the high jump area, not knowing anyone, just observing a competition for the first time consciously. And then, I heard it: two girls approached the referees and announced they were not going to start until a certain height was reached, since they would be too bored having to start so very low. I realized that their starting height was about 5 centimeters higher than my highest score at school. At this moment, I quietly packed my bag and left, never to take part in any high jump events ever again.
In my late teens, I decided to start Taekwondo, and ended up on the team, for fun again. Soon I entered real fights, yes competitions, full contact, covered in protective gear and since I was on the heavier side, my opponents were a head taller than me most times. I won a few, I lost a few, I got beat up quite a bit, I beat up some girls for real, but it was a nerve-wracking experience.
It was not the fight itself that was nerve-wracking. As soon as we were on the mat, we bowed, we screamed at our opponent, it was all good. The stress started before, about a week before, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep and the worst moment was the weighing-in. You get an eye to estimate who is in your weight class and, yes, your mind is racing. You try to look strong and fit and intimidating. I made it to second in my state, if I may add.
Please don’t ask me, why I did it. I cannot give you an answer. I probably had to prove something to myself. Prove to myself that I was worthy to be paid attention to, that I was worthy to be winning something. It was all in my head. Why did I damage my body like that, let it get beat and hit other people?
I am guessing I was in a competition with myself.
Apparently, I have become much wiser with age. ;0) However, I still have to work on accepting and loving myself as I am at this very moment. I still get weary, looking at pictures of myself from over 10 years ago, “pre-children” and look forward to looking like that again. The most important part I keep forgetting and then keep reminding myself is, that over 10 years ago, I felt similar about my body and my looks, the way I feel about myself now. So, thinking this a little further, in 10 years, will I be dreaming of the body, the fitness level, I have now? Will I be giving everything to just get my legs I have now, my arms I have now?
And again, it is all in my head. Society standards yes, by my own standards, I fear they are much higher than society’s. So, before I can approach competition with the outside world, let me find some peace for the competition inside myself. Where is the love and acceptance I have for my children, why can I not have a similar compassion with myself? Yoga and meditation have brought me from the screaming fighter closer to the more conscious and gentler soul that I am looking at now. And they keep me there, because the mind still races and needs a gentle nudge from time to time.
photo by Romy Eichner