I’ve never really been particularly competitive. I played Little League baseball and one year of football in 6th Grade, but I never really got into it that much. The truth is, I’ve never really cared about winning that much and when I am competing (these days it is most likely a board game) I don’t really try that hard. I haven’t done much where failure was a strong possibility, and when I have done risky things I just shrug it off as unimportant. Like most things, I have a lot of trouble getting emotionally invested.
I always viewed this apathy to competition as a good thing, but my morning reading from “The Daily Stoic” has me reconsidering that.
“Difficulties show a person’s character. So when a challenge confronts you, remember that God is matching you with a younger sparring partner, as would a physical trainer. Why? Becoming an Olympian takes sweat! I think no one has a better challenge than yours, if only you would use it like an athelete would that younger sparring partner.”
– Epictetus, Discourses, 1.24.1-2 (Translated by Stephen Hanselman)
I don’t really buy into the whole idea that there is a God who has hand-picked a struggle for me to rest my mettle against. That kind of supernatural determinism reminds me too much of my Christian days where empty platitudes like “God won’t give us a struggle we can’t handle” replaced actual positive support for people, but there is still something there that is gnawing at the back of my mind.
Maybe there is some value in competition to test myself and grow stronger. Maybe my “I’m not competitive” mindset is a way of saying “I’m afraid to test myself because I might fail”. I have a history of focusing on individual tasks like school and running while ignoring competitive tests like chess or sports.
I think I’d like to change that. I’m not going to ignore yoga, but maybe there is room for some martial arts in my life. I’m going to keep studying and reading, but possibly I could benefit from chess or another mental test that requires an opponent. It might do me some good to give something my all, try as hard as I can, and then get my ass kicked.