All throughout my life I had been considered a highly competitive person, and for this I was exalted and celebrated. Being a competitive person was seemingly referred to as though I was part of a club that was a notch about the rest - I "got" things other people didn't, I was smart and talented and driven, and I was "good enough" to be considered in competition for a top spot in whatever it was I was doing. Because there was so much positive reinforcement and praise for being a "competitive person" I became really attached to it and let competitiveness become something that defined me. By doing this I was feeding my ego, growing it, letting it rule me... in a realm of misunderstanding.
I was competitive with myself, always wanting to be better than I was before (and really always wanting to be better than I currently was no matter how "good" I was at something.) I was also competitive against everyone else in the world. Because I was never satisfied with myself and I was always competing against others I was in a constant state of over-arousal as well as a poor image of myself and my abilities. Of course, right? I mean if no matter what I did, no matter who I was, no matter what was accomplished or won, it was never enough, then I will always feel like I am failing and I will never be able to absorb the benefits of the process and enjoying the experience.
By constantly comparing myself of course I felt defeated. Yes there were times I won or was the best, but I didn't get as much pleasure out of those moments as I thought I would. And I sure as heck didn't enjoy the process. Being in this constant state of competition also meant I was over-activating my sympathetic nervous system and therefore building up way too much cortisol (stress hormone) and totally depleting my body and nervous system in the process. My parasympathetic nervous system was untrained and underdeveloped and my body stayed in a stress state even when there was no stimulus. Even when I thought I was relaxing, my body was not. This takes a major toll and I began to feel tired more easily and it affected my immunity. I got sick way more than I ever had in my whole life. Which lead me to learning to listen to my body and what I needed and change my perspective on life.
So whats the point in all of this? Why am I telling you this personal information about myself? Well, because I hope it's something that you can relate to (or maybe notice in a friend) and can learn from. For me, it took the hard way to learn. I got really sick, felt really down, and took months to recover. During this recovery time I read, journaled, and did some major soul searching. What was I missing? Why was I feeling burned out? What made my body shut down?
Slowly it started to sink in for me - the point of life is not to win or to reach the top of the mountain. It is not to beat myself or beat myself up, or to get mad at myself for mistakes, or feel afraid that I am not good enough. The point is LEARNING. The point is GROWING. The point is HAPPINESS. What matters most is the effort, the process, and most importantly the things we notice and learn along the way. Each challenge, obstacle, and attempt is another chance to learn about ourselves and GROW.
When we begin to view life in this way a huge burden is lifted from our shoulders. There is freedom. We do not need to compare with the outside world, but rather listen to what's happening on our inside world. When we begin to see things in this light another benefit is we actually begin to live in the moment making us feel more alive and satisfied than we ever had before. With each attempt we accept ourselves without judgement and are excited to be able to learn and grow. It is a process and we are open and allow ourselves the space and grace for growth.
My hope for you today is that you begin to step back and observe yourself. Notice your thoughts, your patterns, your habits. Start to give yourself space for learning and growth. Knowing that with each attempt you get a chance to learn something. Allow each day to be different. Come alive in your heart. Begin to notice each opportunity to learn and be excited about gaining new knowledge. Give yourself space for growth. Notice the way it changes how you feel. Notice the changes it makes in your relationships. Enjoy the present moment and all the lessons it will teach you. Step inside yourself with a questioning attitude.
What will you learn today?
Want more growth and a perspective shift? Check out this Workshop I am hosting on April 12th in Evergreen, Colorado.