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Saturday, 11 August 2012

34. Allergic to competition

Olympics fever has people all over the world glued to their sets, cheering countries and athletes on.  As for me, the only real interest I’ve shown these past so-many-days was for the Opening Ceremony.  Now THAT brought a lump to my throat.  Why the general lack of enthusiasm?  For starters, the time difference, PLUS I am rubbish at sedentary viewing (too fidgety!).  And, if I was honest, whilst I enjoy the celebration of sportsmanship and the personal stories, I am not one for competition where for every winner, stands a whole posse of defeated souls.   Yes, I’ve been found out:  I don’t enjoy competition and the angst and agro that comes with it.  Its an 'allergy'.

I grew up in a very competitive family and when I was a child, life seemed to revolve around discussions about who got the best grade, the most As, was the most loved, etcetera.  It didn’t help that my aeronautical engineer father placed a ridiculously high value on As for science and mathematical subjects and was hugely contemptuous of everything else.  He regarded history, literature and English as disciplines introduced for the morons of society.  Much to his angst, owing to the slant of his viewpoint, I belonged to that particular group.  As such, my killer grades for what I excelled in were routinely dismissed with a “any idiot can get an A” whilst my paltry marks for maths (especially!) invited humiliation and sometimes a beating.  When my literature teacher wrote of my “tenacity” in a report card, my father interpreted the remark that I had been stubborn – so I got beaten up for that too.  I should mention I was confused at the time of the beating, wondering what I had done to invite such a ‘terrible report’ (as per my dad’s reason for the walloping) as I could have sworn I was one of Mrs Grainger’s better students seeing I routinely topped my class.  It was only years later when the memory re-surfaced that I realized my father did not understand the real meaning of ‘tenacity’.  Ah, but I digress.  

As I was saying, unfortunately for me, next to one brother gifted in Maths (now a shipbroker), another a natural with language and the written word (now a professor), plus the two extra brothers who went on to become an anesthetist and a lawyer respectively, I was officially the dummy of the group – by HIS reckoning.  But that’s okay with me --  just as long as I didn’t have to participate in stupid mind games and soul destroying politics.  And so, with such a 'stellar' introduction to the mechanics of ‘competition’, it is little wonder I am not a fan of rivalry, no matter how friendly.

But of course, it is inevitable to go through life without crossing paths with people who are competitive about EVERYTHING!  From racing to the traffic lights (even if they are red), to being competitive about jobs and earning power.  Unfortunately, much as it pains me to typecast, women (as a whole), can be the biggest culprits.  Sorry girls, but you know there is truth in what I am saying.  

It starts early, with competition revving up around the 10-year-old mark: an unspoken contest to be the smartest, the prettiest, the most sporty, the most popular.  Developing into a race for the best boyfriend, record-breaking college results, the better job, the ultimate wardrobe, etcetera, etcetera.  And then, the ultimate whammy: motherhood!  Who’s baby was the best sleeper or the best eater.  I’ve even had a woman demand why her daughter did not have the same curly hair as the waves my three daughters sport (and NO I do not colour or perm my children's hair!)!  Bizarre!  And then, when Faith was applying for schools after sitting her 11+ exams (in London) came the “Oh!  Which schools are you applying for?  Well!  Six schools have hinted at a promised-spot for MY daughter!  We just have to decide which one will provide the best contacts for her later on.”  Seriously?  BLEH!   

Don’t get me wrong, I am fiercely competitive – it is in my DNA.  I am stubbornly determined and rarely give up.  But the only person I compete against is myself, constantly setting targets and goals, always trying to improve on my last efforts.  I don’t, however, feel the need to be consumed by anything or have the desire to possess a killer instinct; nor do I have a ‘win at all cost’ mentality.  For me, my mantra revolves around balance, being true to myself and having integrity. 

My girls will have make their own decisions about how they feel about competition and while I encourage them to give things their 100 percent and tell them nothing is impossible; I also talk to them about the importance of enjoying what they do, balance, fair play and being gracious – regardless of whether they end up victorious or not.


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