I am Not in Competition with Myself, or Anyone Else. Darn it.

This afternoon, I am leaving for three days in the Northeast Kingdom. I will be attending “Kempo Camp:” a martial arts-focused weekend for adults (and kids over 15 who can keep up).

This is where high-ranking students of my dojo test for the next level: there are several brown belts testing either for another stripe or going for black, one third degree black belt testing for sensei, and at least one student going for their brown belt. There are also white, yellow, and orange belts attending; still very much learning the basics. For the higher ranks, the test is a weekend-long affair. For the rest of us, we may get tested along the way but the goal is really just to immerse ourselves and learn.

The camp varies in intensity and you get out what you put in. The harder you work, the harder you’ll be worked. I have two personal goals I’d like to meet over the course of the weekend:

  1. Be promoted to First Degree Green Belt (meaning, I’d earn a brown stripe)
  2. To not pass out, be badly injured, die, or otherwise embarrass myself

The first goal is largely attainable, and is a direct step my over-arching goal: brown belt by my birthday. See, even the alliteration agrees.

That green belt needs a brown stripe on the end.

The second goal? Well, that would be me putting my ego aside and letting go of my competitive streak, which tends to come out at odds times.

You see, I’m not sporty. Never in my life have I been good at sports. I’ve never understood so many of the “get in shape” regimes that stood mainly to punish your body; so many of the moves just seemed, frankly, bizarre. But in starting these classes, not only have I accidentally found myself participating in a sport, I’ve actually considering signing up for cross-fit classes in order to whip myself into shape for my brown belt test nine months from now.

Cross fit, you guys. I am contemplating cross fit. I don’t know what I’m becoming.

As for my competitive streak, it’s my downfall and I know it. I’ll gamely struggle to keep up with people far more fit than I; I’ll rush through things and do them sloppily in an attempt to be “better.” I push too far, I get tired, I make mistakes, I get hurt. In the end, I tell myself I’m trying to be as good as “they” are but in reality, I’m only competing with picture-perfect me in my head.

I will never win against her. She’s the Black Widow, and I am… not.

The saying “I’m only in competition with myself” is meant to be empowering and encouraging. It doesn’t matter what anyone else is doing, only I can strive to be the best me possible.

It’s great, unless you are someone like me who has anxiety and the corresponding perfectionist streak that tells me no matter what I do, no matter how hard I work, I will never be good. I will always suck. I will always screw up.

So why bother at all?

Being in competition with myself is about the worst thing I can do. So, I try not to be. I try to be human. I try to realize that I can only do what I can do. If I keep working and training at a pace appropriate to me (ie, way longer than I want it to take), I will get better. I will improve.

will reach my goals.

Going into this weekend, I’m going into the unexpected. I’m a little bit terrified, I’m a lot excited. Whatever the outcomes, I know it will be a rewarding experience. I just need to get out of my own way and let myself experience.

…and my inner 1984 Women’s Olympic Gymnast Coach can STFU. That’s right Mr. Karolyi. You’re dismissed.