I am an ultra-competitive person. I don’t know anyone more competitive than me, though I’m sure there are some people who are comparably competitive.
I started playing soccer when I was five, and I remember crying after we lost games. I didn’t understand how my teammates could be so excited about stupid snacks after we lost a game.
I played sports all the way up through high school, and my competitive drive never wavered.
Several years ago, I watched the movie Moneyball, and I identified strongly with the main character, Billy Bean.
At one part he says he hates losing more than he wants to win.
I am far removed from high school sports, but I play rec league sports and I coach youth sports. Although I handle losing much better than I used to, I still hate losing with a burning passion of hate.
Towards the end of my high school career in sports, I wouldn’t be as upset if we lost as long as I felt like I played well and did my best.
These days, most of my competitive energy goes into staying physically fit. I compete against myself. Running is my exercise of choice, and I’m always pushing myself to go faster and farther.
I ran two half-marathons six weeks apart this winter. I’d never done a half-marathon before last December. I started training in September.
Because I set my mind to it, I had no doubt I could accomplish my goal. I was already in really good shape because exercise is vital to my mental health. I run two or three miles every other day with my dog, and I exercise for at least thirty minutes the other days of the week.
My concern wasn’t finishing, it was how fast I wanted to finish. I wanted to do my first half in under two hours. I trained hard, and I never missed a running day.
I finished my first one in 1:46:15, and my second one in 1:46:16. I am still angry at myself for finishing one second slower in my second half-marathon (see what I have to deal with?).
I should have pushed myself harder. I ran my first three miles too slowly. My legs felt dead by mile four, but I pushed through it and went faster because during my training, I figured out going faster helped my dead legs.
My IT band at my knee started flaring up at mile nine. I had four miles left, but I never considered stopping. I knew I had to keep going if I wanted to finish. It was probably a seven on a scale of ten on the pain scale, but I was determined to finish.
I’ve always been tenacious. I overachieved in high school, pushing myself to the limits academically and athletically. I didn’t know moderation or how to slow down. I had one gear: full throttle.
I exercised for three or four hours every day the summer after I graduated from high school. I pushed myself physically, and I also didn’t eat very much.
That all came crashing down the college started that fall. My body and mind were exhausted, and along with other factors, a perfect storm was created and I had a psychotic break.
I skyrocketed into mania, and mania knows no bounds. Mania is the opposite of self-control and temperance. Even when I’m in my right mind, I have a hard time with these two things. Mania just made it ten times worse, and I had zero control over my actions and mind.
Driven people, even if they don’t have a mental illness, will identify with some of this. Often, ambitious people do not know their own limits until they run themselves into the ground. They have to crash and burn before they realize they were pushing themselves too hard for too long.
But why do we do this?
Why do we become obsessed with our tasks to a point we become unaware of our own needs and mental health?
Why are we sometimes hyperaware of other people’s needs but not our own?
Why do we ignore the warning signs our minds and bodies try to tell us about being exhausted, and thus unable to function normally?
I think some of it has to do with setting unrealistic expectations for ourselves. Pleasing and accommodating others is also a factor.
We think we should be able to do everything asked of us. We don’t want to disappoint anyone, so we say yes to every little thing our boss or friends or spouse or kids ask of us.
It doesn’t end there, though. I know I’m not alone in holding myself to a set of standards that are impractical and unhealthy.
I’ve recently accepted that I cannot be everything to everyone and self-care is more important than pleasing everyone.
If you’ve ever been on an airplane, the flight attendants always tell parents to put their oxygen masks on first and then help their kids with their masks.
Because you cannot help anyone if you are unconscious.
You cannot help anyone if you push yourself so hard your mind and body literally stop functioning.
Even the best and most expensive engines cannot run incessantly. Engines have to have time to cool off, or else they can easily be ruined.
Humans are the same way. We need rest. We need to time recuperate.
God rested on the seventh day for a reason. And he ordained the sabbath for the same purpose. If God needed rest, we as humans assuredly need rest as well.
Our minds are our greatest asset. Our minds are what set us apart from other creatures, and our minds eventually start fatiguing.
We have to learn moderation and strive for balance.
We have to be attuned to our own minds and bodies. We cannot ignore indications that we are unraveling physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
We have to seek repose and restoration; we cannot do that if we are constantly sprinting 100 miles per hour.
We have to know our limits.