Dear Journal: On Winning

Dear Journal,

Why am I always so competitive? I’m not even really sure where it came from, but I have always had the urge to win. Something about winning being the only thing. And I have been accused many times of being a sore loser, although I have worked awfully hard on my “gracious loser face.” I can’t help lording it up over others when I do win, too, and I’ve been working on not doing that either. Apparently people don’t like it when I rub it in their faces. I started thinking that maybe I had been going too far when people started to avoid me after I won at anything. It wasn’t because they felt bad for losing. It was because they couldn’t stand to listen to me gloating.

I had no clue I was even doing it either. Not at first, anyway. The gloating just became a natural extension of my good feeling as a result of winning. But the sulking was even worse when I would lose. I took to closing myself up in a room and punching a pillow, silently screaming in my mind, beating myself up for not performing up to my potential (even if it was a game I wasn’t familiar with and therefore should have had no prior expectation of winning).

You see, I always believe I can win, regardless of what the competition entails. If it’s spitting into a garbage can from 10 feet away I think I can be the best at it. If it’s reciting the alphabet in Russian the fastest I will study the pronunciations as much as I possibly can and believe I can beat all the native Russians who are against me. If it’s running a marathon I think I should be able to win, even against people who have trained their whole lives. And when I lose, no matter how ludicrous my expectations were, it’s as if I grieve for the loss.

I’ve gotten better the older I get, though. By better, though, I mean that I’m not as competitive in every single thing anymore, but the things I am competitive about I am still ultra-competitive about. For example, I’m in a survival football league where each competitor has to pick one NFL team to win per week, and I do exhaustive research before every single selection. But despite all of that preparation there’s a reason why they still play the games, and the team I chose ended up losing last week. I was devastated, while at the same time I realized how out of proportion I was blowing this one sporting contest. I made myself breathe in and out slowly, in a steady rhythm, just to get past it and move on.

I don’t gloat as much either, preferring to let the results speak for themselves more often than not, and even being humble and not mentioning the victory at times, which I find makes others more apt to keep talking to me about whatever the competition was. Even this week, as I struggled with my wrong choice of team to win in survival football, I kept my devastation to myself, putting on a strong face for others. It’s an issue I know I still have, but I feel like I’ve matured enough to deal with it instead of just letting it sweep me away on its rising tide.

Sam

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