Pick me. Please pick me. Don’t let me be the last person picked. Please God.
I push my glasses up my nose, cross my arms in front of my flat chest, and let out a sigh.
Don’t cry if they don’t pick you. Do. Not. Cry.
But the tears are already stinging my corneas, threatening to escape in an emotional avalanche of frustration, insecurity, and sadness.
“We’ll take Christie,” one of the team captains says.
My heart leaps. Oh, thank God, I was not last.
But wait, I was second to last. Twenty-some other girls were chosen for a volleyball team in our sixth grade gym class before me. The tears spring up again, threatening to release themselves and splatter down the front of my white ringer gym tee.
I don’t even like volleyball, I think. In fact, I hate volleyball. I hate the way the ball stings my forearms when I try to bump (or is it set?) the ball back across the net. I hate the way I never seem to jump high enough to volley the ball back over when I am playing the net. I hate the way the ball springs back from the net every time it is my turn to serve, reminding everyone why I was chosen second-to-last.
Sadly, at the age of thirty-four, the lack of approval and acceptance from others can still stir up the same wellspring of inadequacy, inferiority and self-doubt as it did at the age of twelve. When a blog post I had entered in an online competition was ranked second-to-last among the entries, that same pit grew in my stomach and those same tears threatened to release themselves.
Why do I care? Why does the approval of others still mean so much to me, particularly when writing is intended to be a personal, creative outlet that brings joy, not frustration? If writing is an expression of me as I pour my heart, soul, and mind into each piece and readers don’t like my writing, does that mean that they don’t like me?
Competition often has a way of turning into its ugly alter-ego of judgment and self-doubt for me, as I’m sure it does for many others. How often do we compare our physical appearances to those of others? How often do we value ourselves based on our income bracket and whether or not we are keeping up with the Joneses? How often do we get caught up in the popularity contests of social media, seeking more Facebook friends and Twitter followers for the sake of increasing the number rather than increasing the valuable connections that can be facilitated through social media?
Competition can be a useful tool in many respects. Competition rewards hard work and encourages high-quality efforts. Competition fosters self-awareness of our strengths and weaknesses. Competition cultivates accountability and responsibility.
But when we are competitive with those subjective facets of our lives – personality traits, values, priorities, creative outlets, artistic skills – excessive competition can be particularly damaging. It is at these times when we must step back, refocus ourselves on our priorities, and remind ourselves of our inherent self-worth.
After a brief rendezvous with feelings of self-doubt, weakness, and inadequacy, I reminded myself of my reasons that I write on my blog in the first place – to create a forum for the discussion of thought-provoking social issues, hone my writing skills, establish a platform for a hope-to-be-published book, and (most importantly) satisfy the creative side of myself that thrives on writing.
You see, unlike those dreaded volleyball games in that middle school gym class, I absolutely love writing. My reasons for writing cannot be to gain the most “votes” in an online writing competition, garner the most Facebook shares and likes, or acquire the most Twitter followers. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to have a post go viral or to amass a throng of committed readers, but if these goals become my priorities, my writing will suffer and I will suffer.
Instead, I must continue to remind myself that, as Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” And inferiority is something to which I will not consent.