Does a competitive nature ever die?

If you are born competitive, will you always want to win?

I was prompted to ask myself this question after reading a fellow (Irish) bloggers post one day.It was the blog Raising Elves, and in a post she asked, ‘Does winning or losing effect who you are?”Does winning well in childhood make you a more ambitious adult? Does losing in childhood make you give up or not bother?’

These questions really caught my attention. Reading them prompted me to wonder if in fact the opposite might be true. Does a childhood of losing make you determined to succeed as you got older? Or does a childhood of winning mean you no longer feel the need to?  This final question is the one I can relate to the most, for I have changed immeasurably as I have got older,from the very competitive individual I used to be.

When I say I was a very competitive child, I mean very competitive.I would compete over anything and everything. First down the stairs. Fastest eater. First home from school. First finished homework. All very important competitions, to myself. When at the age of nine I took up swimming I had at last an outlet for this competitiveness.

I competed within the pool against myself and those around me. Every second was a competition. In training I’d race someone in the next lane, in and out of the turn, off the dive, fastest to finish. It was exhausting, but the drive to win was not something I could turn off. No one else in my family competed in sport, nor did my Mom or Dad push me in any way. It was what I loved to do.

One of my most memorable competitions was when I was fifteen. I was swimming in the National Championships. At the time Juniors were allowed compete at senior level also. I was small for my age, and underweight, but inside I saw myself as tall and as strong as anyone else. We were lined up for a final. I was not in the fastest three lanes. Waiting for the race I was nervous. I swam it a number of times in my head, and when I reached the third 25m in my imagination, I talked myself through the oxygen debt, the pain, and the doubts I might experience. Each time I swam it I saw myself approach the last 5m. I dug deep, kicked like crazy, held my breath and always won.photo credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/danjc003/1876117737/">Daniel Coomber</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/">cc</a>

As I walked over to my lane I can remember thinking ‘yikes this is it’. I looked across at my fellow finalists and for a moment I was intimidated. Putting on my goggles, as the whistle blew, I stepped forward to the blocks. As I stood on the back of the blocks I looked down the pool and as I did so I felt a wave of adrenaline pass over me. I inhaled deeply and in that moment I had no doubt whatsoever that I would beat the other finalists. I felt calm, determined, and ready. I would beat them. My focus was aggressive. Not that I would win, but that I would ‘beat them’. I dived in and for almost 75m of the 100m I felt nothing. No pain, no oxygen debt, no panic. Nothing. I was in ‘The zone’. Coming out of the last turn I took a quick look across the pool, I was about a half a body length ahead. I was now definitely out of the zone, and the pain was beginning to seep in. With only metres to go I put my head down, just as I had in my fantasy race, swam many times before competing, and I managed to just hold on. I had thankfully ‘beaten them’.

That race took place a long time ago, and perfectly illustrates the person I was then. However it is a world away from the person I am now. I am still somewhat competitive in that I enjoy competition, and will try my best, but winning is now ‘nice’, not essential. I still do not like to be beaten, but I do not overly mind not winning.

I wonder sometimes is it that I have mellowed as I grew older? Has the need to win lessened, or am I just lazy now, not prepared to push myself or to hurt as much as I used to? Has my competitive nature died?

I play golf now, and recently someone commented that they thought I should be a much lower handicap than I am. They had managed the team I played on in mixed doubles. He said watching me he thought I was highly competitive and focused. As I listened to him I realised that he was right. In a team event I am that old person. I want to win for my team mate. I want to beat the others. I care. However individually I know I have lost the killer instinct, and you know what? I miss it.

I am not sure why I have lost it, or when. I know that last year as young Daniel was sick, and after he died, that I hadn’t the stomach to compete. Who cares who won or lost? It was only a game. Now I am back competing, and I can feel myself enjoying competition once more. However when it comes to that extra push, that moment when I must dig deep because I want to ‘beat them’ and win,  I back off. I make a mistake and winning is over. And do I care, I mean really care? No. In my head I am disappointed, but deep down I just don’t care. It was only a game.

Writing this I realise that I miss caring. I miss the joy of ‘beating them’. I miss winning. I miss that determined lady I used to be. Maybe that lady has gone for good, but I hope I’m wrong. I really hope that some day I’ll find her again, and if I do I’ll let you know, and I wonder if I’ll still like her.

photo credit: Daniel Coomber via photopin cc
photo credit: jdlasica via photopin cc

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19 thoughts on “Does a competitive nature ever die?

  1. I never mind losing; a loss does not make or break me. Knowing you as I have through your blog I cannot see you with ruffled feathers over a loss with so many wins in life. 🙂

    1. That is a lovely comment and compliment Jackie. Thank you so much.
      The funny thing is that I used to get ruffled with a loss. However you’re correct I have had many wins in life, and at the moment am very content. Maybe that has made me lose my drive. If so, long may it last!
      Reading your comment, ‘a loss does not make or break me’ I remember past swimmers I knew. They were much stronger people than I was as they had to cope with competing and not winning regularly, yet worked just as hard as I did.

    1. Yes Eric it is innate, and in my case it’s missing! Maybe it’ll come back, and there are definitely advantages in not having it, but I wonder is it gone for good?

    1. Oh no. But I’m discovering that non competitive is also good, but for me it’s different!
      As for you and lazy…. A blog shortlisted, six children, a new baby, painting and all sorts of crafty things and home schooling! I don’t think you qualify as lazy.

  2. maybe you can go up against yourself once more. see if you can beat the thing within that keeps you from wanting that winning edge that you so love to have. great post, tric –

    1. Thanks Beth. I’m not sure I think it’s a mix between not caring as much and life having put some things in perspective. But maybe when time passes I’ll get it back.

  3. Tric I really enjoyed reading your perspective on this. I think it has to be part of the personality. And over time our personalities change a little. Do you think?

    1. Agreed, and lifes experiences change us. I really hope though that as time passes and events of the last year become less real, that I can get that spirit back. Thanks to you and your post which got me thinking of all this.

    1. I really identify with you here. Not that I can compare my life with yours but we have both had a major, if different, dose of reality. There is more to life than winning.

  4. I was not competitive when I was younger. I felt that I was the worst at anything I tried to do.

    This changed as an adult, but not for some time. When I was diagnosed with MS, I was devastated..When I started having to use a wheelchair, it was even worse. But something happened, by coincidence, that changed my life again.

    I was introduced to wheelchair sports. I started competing with others, I had to be the best someone would notice me. They did and they do.

  5. A very interesting post. I worry for the children who constantly lose that it will eventually damage their self esteem. Until, perhaps, they find the one thing that they are good at and can enjoy doing well at? I was on the edge of my seat reading about your swimming race. I think you have the type of focus required to compete at a high level! As for me? Only sometimes , like if I want a project or campaign I’m involved in to be a success. I know if I focus I can do it and I love when that happens. As for winning? Well I got my taste of that in my Tops of The Town days! What an amazing feeling……. xx

    1. Tops of the Towns! Did you sing, or dance or both? I miss that competitive burst but it is not something I can find. It’s innate and for now it’s missing.
      Hope you are on the road to recovery from your recent back injury?

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