Triggers, self-worth and why I need to change my mindset around competition or not do it.
I never knew I was competitive until I started CrossFit as a sport. When my first opportunity to participate in a competition came up, I was faced with the fact I REALLY wanted to do well, and well in that context meant better than others.
I put so much pressure on myself that the anticipation made me nervous almost to the point of being sick, and although I had fun during the day, it left me with an overpowering “not good enough” feeling afterwards. After doing a few competitions and experiencing the same feelings every time, I decided to stop for a while.
But then the CrossFit Open happened (see definition here).
Because it’s an important event for the community and I didn’t register last year, I decided to face that big scary test this year. I didn’t enter for the competitive aspect. My intention was more to get a reality check on movements standards and a performance benchmark for future training.
Nevertheless… it is still a competitive event, and as soon as people from the box started to mention the leaderboard, the competition virus caught me.
Right after 19.1 (first workout), I was happy with my performance. I knew it wasn't crazy good but I felt like I had given all I had in that moment, so I was satisfied. But checking the leaderboard underlined the fact it was “not that good” compared to other people. And the deserved satisfaction of a work well done transformed into the familiar feeling of not being good enough.
Luckily, instead of just triggering a negative spiral, it acted as a wake up call: "Wow girl, stop for a second. What are you trying to prove here?"
When I'm in competition mode, my ego kicks in and I feel like I have to be “better than” to prove that I have value.
And while there is a lot to gain from being fueled and motivated by competition, where you stand in comparison to others shouldn’t influence your self-worth.
The thing is, there is most likely always going to be somebody doing better than you, whether it’s in your box, in the country or in the world. Does that diminish the value of your progress and your personal achievements? What about that new PB? Does your best mean nothing because it is not THE best?
It is good to strive for more, to be better. But self improvement is a big enough mission.
If you keep comparing yourself, nothing you do will ever be satisfying. No achievement will be high enough, because somebody, somewhere, has done better. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to keep feeding that “not good enough” inner voice forever.
Easier said than done, not always applicable on the spot when we’ve just been triggered by something, but it’s worth keeping in a corner of our mind and come back to it, not only about fitness but in general.
What went wrong?
If I want to keep competing, I need to change my approach so it becomes something positive and not detrimental.
Backtracking a bit, I’m able to see what is actually happening when I enter “competition mode”:
I take myself too seriously
A few weeks before a comp, I will take my training as a matter of life and death, thinking I need to do every workout perfectly, each weakness echoing in my head as a sign I’m not ready. Training stops being fun and that’s a big sign something’s wrong. How am I going to continue to stay healthy if I’m not having fun with it?
Pressure (♬ “pushing down on me, pressing down on you…” ♪♫)
I put an incredible amount of pressure on myself and it is completely counter productive. It is not the type of positive thrilling pressure, the adrenaline rush that pumps you. It is the type that makes me panic so much inside that I am confused, lose my focus and forget how to do things I know.
How did I get there? How did I get so far from something I love doing? How did it become a source of anxiety and something I need to get done so it’s out of the way?
Because somewhere along the way, it became a “prove your worth” exam, far away from my original “Why”.
Why do I do CrossFit?
To get fitter for life, move well, look good naked (yes that too!), feel strong, discover what my body is capable of.
Why do I want to compete?
Have a target to shoot for, a more focused goal to train towards instead of floating around
Challenge myself, get over my nerves, push harder
Test the limits of my fitness
If it’s a team comp: have fun with friends
I’m not aiming for the Games or even the Regionals. I won’t become a professional athlete. I need to keep reminding myself that doing my personal best is the end goal, and competing is a way to boost that optimum performance.
In the end, what do I want to take away from all those hours of training?
Health, fitness, growth, fun.
If competition serves that, great, if not there is no point. That’s the bottom line.