I have always been a competitive person. I’m not sure exactly why. Although I loved watching sports on television as a kid, I didn’t have the opportunity to actually participate in team sports until middle school. The first sport I played was soccer. I had never even heard of soccer before, but one of my friends played on a community team (something I also didn’t know existed) and encouraged me to join when our small school formed a team. Much to my mom’s dismay, I found that I loved playing and the skills needed came naturally to me. Of course, I had been playing backyard sports prior to this–baseball, basketball, football, street hockey, volleyball, tennis–pretty much anything that involved athleticism. Soccer, though, brought out a new level of competitiveness in me. For the first time, I was playing against people I did not know and the game outcome meant something. A winning season meant postseason play. I continued playing soccer through my freshman year in college when an injury ended any future plans for continued play. I lived vicariously through my kids later on–coaching them at various levels and cheering them on, sometimes rather obnoxiously, at every game I could get to. My kids are grown now. My body wouldn’t handle running around a soccer field anymore anyway. I do still enjoy watching soccer; I also enjoy watching other sports still. I no longer have the opportunity to participate, but my competitive spirit has not diminished at all.
I guess that is a good thing, since it seems competition is all around me.
Lately I have felt that life is one big competition. Everywhere I look, it seems, someone or something is taunting me to go one more step. Sometimes this competition comes from within. My best example of that is a new little gadget my husband and I purchased over the summer. I’m sure you’ve seen the commercial for the wearable exercise tracker, Fitbit. For some reason, in a moment of insanity, I agreed with my husband that getting a Fitbit would be a good idea. It would give me an idea of how much I moved during the day and give me goals to try to attain. In theory, that’s the purpose of a Fitbit. For me, though,this little gray band is always there to “scold” me if my steps or miles or floors or calories burned are not high enough to give me a green little smiley on my Fitbit report. I find myself getting very discouraged if any of those markers are not met.
My Fitbit isn’t the only thing that has forced me into feeling that I am always losing to a champion heavyweight in the final round. I’ve written in the past about my love-hate relationship with social media. A quick scroll through Facebook or Twitter bombards me with the idea that there is competition to be found in every aspect of life. Posted pictures tell me I am not skinny enough. Posted statuses elude that I am just a wife and not worthy enough. Shared articles tell me I fall short even as a Christian. The list could go on. While I am a very competitive person, there is another word that I could use to describe myself.
That word would be insecure. Most of my life has been marked by extreme insecurity. I am pretty sure I know the root cause. That isn’t the subject of this post though.
Insecurity and competition don’t play well together. They feed off of each other in a negative way and wreak havoc on the life and in the mind of the person who has the misfortune of being their playground. Over the past few weeks, my mind has been that playground. Competition usually begins the game. A post or a photo or an article tells me that I am overweight or too old. Competition tells me I don’t even come close to measuring up to what’s presented. The ball is then passed to insecurity. Insecurity wastes no time in an attempt to take me out of the game. It’s effective strategy attacks my mind, telling me because I can’t even come close to measuring up, I am certainly no longer loved by people who once loved me. In a frame of mind already weakened by illness and depression, my mind latches onto these statements as truth. I rationalize that of course this is all true. After all, I am not stupid nor am I blind. I see what our culture values–and it shouldn’t be a newsflash that gray hair, extra pounds, and an ailing body do not make the MVA (Most Valuable Assets) list. Of course some of this I bring on myself. If I know that a quick scroll through Facebook is going to leave me feeling worthless, one would think that staying off of Facebook would be the obvious choice. If I know that my husband works with women just a few years out of college, not seeking to find a picture of them would be a wise choice to make. Maybe I am stupid, for I do exactly the opposite of the smart choices written above. This is like pouring gasoline on a fire, causing even more of a downward spiral of emotions. And tears. Buckets of tears.
That’s what has fallen this week–many tears as I wrestled with the idea that I just can’t compete with all that is out there for competition. My insecurity grew as I realized that, for one of the first times in my life, I am losing a competition.
I hate losing. Hate it. Hate it. Hate it.
I really want to turn the tone of this entry at this point, maybe write how God reached down and drew me out of the deep pit of depression and reminded me that what the world thinks doesn’t matter. I could write something like that. I can put all the right words down to make others think that I learned a wonderful spiritual lesson this week and grew in my walk with Christ.
But the truth is, that isn’t what happened.
The truth is I am left in the same spot I was when the lies and insecurity went running through my head–a place of doubt that I am really loved for who I am by those closest to me. Depression can do that, I guess. It can team up with just about any negative characteristic and magnify it to the point that life is just very hard. It can make a marriage difficult too. It can block any glimpses of hope that otherwise may be visible. Storms, though, never last forever. Even in fictional Narnia, eventually the sun came out and spring returned. That is my hope right now…that this storm of feeling like I just can’t measure up will someday leave.
At least it’s something.