I have a confession to make. While this may seem shocking and completely out of character for someone so seemingly laid back and sunny, I am one of the most competitive people you will ever meet. This applies to games of charades, sporting events, auditions, appearances, career goals and on and on, but I’m getting ahead of myself. I intended to write a quick anecdote about last week’s turkey trot in Huntington Beach and I’m divulging down a rather personal path into my psyche and the nature of competitiveness. Ah what the hell, I think I need to write about it.
Why are we competitive? And by we I mean most humans walking the earth. We compete for love. Men compete for women, women compete for men, men compete for men and women compete for women. We all do it.
We compete for attention. Siblings compete for attention from their parents. Co-workers compete for attention from their bosses. Politicians compete for attention from the public. Students compete for attention from their teachers. Attention must be a high priority for us humans. Why?
We compete for money. We compete to find the lowest price. We compete for that coveted raise or promotion. We compete with our peers for student loans. The entire economic structure of our society competes to take our dollar and make us feel like “wow, we got a great deal” in doing so.
We compete for the glory. Sports teams compete to be the champion. Colleges compete to be the best university in the country, whatever that means. Olympians compete for the medal. Countries compete to be the first on the moon. All for the glory, the bragging rights, the intangible right to simply proclaim “we are the best.”
I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that every aspect of competition has a major through line, ego. Now I don’t mean that in a derogatory sense, I really don’t. I’m certainly not foolish enough to believe that we should obliterate our egos in order to be one with the world. Ego is very important and very healthy, when it’s in check. So what am I getting at here? I’m trying to tell you in a very round about way that I have a very hard time keeping my ego in check.
I’m not conceited. I’m not full of myself. I’m not a bragger or someone who in any way thinks I’m better than you. On the contrary. I sway more to the neurotic. I’m down on myself a lot. I have an inferiority complex. I’m always certain that someone can do a better job than me. I fight those traps far more than I fight any state of what is commonly understood as egotistical. And yet I constantly feel the tug of my ego, pulling down on me, wanting to be fed. Why? To counteract the affects of my neuroses of course. Sound crazy? That’s why it’s called neurotic! It’s totally loony. My default state seems to be that of insecurity and inferiority, so the ego inside tries to yank me in the other direction to get me out of the trenches. I guess I should thank my ego for that. It’s only trying to help. Trying to save me from drowning. And it has. I have allowed my ego to want things and desire to excel, and it truly has kept me from completely self-destructing. The problem is my ego seems to be a bit of a voracious beast. It just wants more. A balanced state between self-loathing and cocky doesn’t seem to be enough for my little ego. It wants it all. Perhaps it feels that it deserves payback for dragging my id out of the mud so many times. I guess I can’t blame it. So how does this manifest? In many ways over the years.
Scrabble. Taboo. Charades. Monolopy. Sounds silly but there was a time in my life, mostly around high school, that I played a board game as if my life depended on it. I played dirty. I played hard. And if I didn’t win, it got ugly. Don’t even think about being on my team unless you are willing to focus and take the game. I have managed to assuage this into a mild version of healthy competition over the years. I can now play a game of Scrabble without raising my voice to a 10 because some imbecile keeps questioning my perfectly acceptable words. Qi is a word! Get over it! Don’t be afraid. I’m much better now. Anyone for game night?
Sports. I’ve never been a big sports buff. It took me almost 3 decades for someone to finally explain to me in an understandable way how football works. (Thanks Danielle Ross for the lipstick metaphor). I collected baseball cards as a kid but I’m not sure why as I didn’t really follow the sport. I had quite a collection though. I finally got heavy into baseball once I went to college. You can’t avoid it when you live in Red Sox Nation. Being a mile down the street from Fenway when the Red Sox won the World Series will forever be one of the most incredible memories I have. So grateful I got to experience that. But I digress. There is one team that has always lit the competitive fire within me. One team that got me standing up and screaming at the TV as the adrenaline raised to an unhealthy level in my veins. That team is my Sacramento Kings. I will never, NEVER be a Lakers fan. I will never forget how they stole the championship from us back in ’02. The Kings taught me about useless competition at an early age. I say useless only in relation to its importance in the world. For as hyped up as I would get when the Kings won a game, you’d think the life of a nation or the well-being of a group of hostages was at stake. In relation to what it’s actually worth for the Kings to win a game, which is nothing, it’s useless. And yes I said winning is not worth anything. It’s really not. It’s not worth money except to the players and owners who will get a huge bump next season. It’s certainly not worth your money. It’s not worth anything intellectual or spiritual. What is it worth? Pride I guess. Pride that your team is the best. It’s a feeling that elevates. Makes us feel like winners. Our team won. My team. I, me, mine. Ego boost. I really hope that I don’t sound like I’m making a judgement about this. That is not my intention. I still love my Sacramento Kings, my Red Sox, and now that I understand football I can actually start to understand what the 49ers are doing and not just like them because I’m from the area. I love sports. I just find it interesting how much energy we put into them considering the return is quite minimal.
What else am I competitive about? Career. This is a hard one for me to talk about. It’s incredibly personal and I’m not too good about being super personal on this blog. The drive to succeed in my career runs very deep and has many dark and complicated layers. I’ll just scratch the surface for you. I constantly fall into the trap of thinking that other people’s successes equal my failures. It’s absurd I know, and I fight and I fight it, but it’s so hard. Whenever I hear that someone booked something or just shot something awesome or got a new agent, etc. I feel a strong pang in my chest. What is that pang anyway? I suppose it’s jealousy, insecurity, envy, greed. How many deadly sins did I just name?
This goes both ways. Let me preface this by saying that I hate myself for what I’m about to admit. I am a terrible terrible terrible person, but I’m only human. Let me also say that this is a dirty shameful little secret of a feeling that I have almost completely grown out of, but still haunts me at times. Ok here goes. Sometimes, when something doesn’t work out for someone the way they’d hoped in regards to the entertainment industry, I feel this satisfying sense of schadenfreude. I’m terrible! God I hate myself for even saying it but I think I’m trying to spell it out for you, put it out in public, in the hopes that it will completely go away. I must not be the only person who ever felt that way or else the Germans wouldn’t have invented a word for it. Perhaps it’s just Germans that subscribe to such a horrible feeling. I attribute the ability to grow out of this horrible state to a few of my favorite things: love, running, and the general perspective and growth that comes with simply growing up.
Someone that I look up to very much subscribes to the opposite position. She is always proclaiming how happy she is to see people succeed, because it means she lives in a world where success is possible. That sentiment strikes such a strong chord with me. It’s not something that necessarily comes naturally, but I want it to. So I repeat it, like a mantra. Every time someone gets something, a part, an agent, a career, that I don’t, I remind myself that it has nothing to do with me and that their success just means that success is indeed possible. The success of others bodes well for all of us if we look at it the right way.
So why have I felt all of these awful feelings? I’m insightful and introspective enough to realize that it has nothing to do with “them” and everything to do with me. Misery loves company, and since I consider myself to be a miserable failure some of the time, I feel satisfaction when others fail with me. Sick sick sick. Every horrible thought that enters my head stems from my own insecurity that I’m not good enough, or maybe even not good at all. Thus, again, my ego comes along and tries to compensate, tries to save the day. Tries to find a way to make me feel like I’m the best, the prettiest, the most talented, the most interesting, the smartest. I’ve finally started to find enough balance and perspective in my life to know in my heart that no one is any of those things. If there is anything that my industry thrives on it’s uniqueness. The most interesting actors capitalize on their own brilliant uniqueness, and I’ve come to know that to compare myself and judge myself by others’ accomplishments cannibalizes that necessary trait. Slowly but surely I am becoming truly and deeply happy for others’ success, because it does indeed mean that success is possible.
So what does this have to do with running? Gosh at this point nothing! I’ve gone down the rabbit hole and it seems silly to come back up to talk about running, but I wanna. I want to tell you all about the Cause Life Turkey Trot. Because cooking for three days straight for a Thanksgiving feast of 16 people is not enough for me, and because I’m crazy, I felt it necessary to run a 10k the morning of Thanksgiving before preparing for the big day. Did I mention that I can be a bit of an over-achiever sometimes? The great thing about being madly in love is that, with my feminine wiles and irresistible charm, I managed to successfully rope Brad into doing it with me. So we woke up at 6:00 am and trudged down to Huntington Beach to run a sunrise 10k. The only other official race I’ve ever run is the Disneyland Half Marathon which as I’ve mentioned before is an intimate race with me and 20,000 of my closest friends. I assumed that most races would be on a somewhat large scale. I didn’t expect the Turkey Trot to hit those numbers but I figured about 1,000 at least. Uh uh. We get to the starting line and there couldn’t have been more than 100 people there. I suddenly think about the running shirt I almost wore to this race. Thank God I didn’t:
Thinking about this shirt that I wore in the Disneyland Half Marathon, it occurred to me that in this particular 10k there very well could be NO ONE behind me to read this. The shirt was never meant to be true! This was a pretty serious group of runners and I knew we’d be towards the back. For the first mile I feel good. The pros had run ahead but we still have about 20-30 people behind us that I know I can lick. What does not occur to me is that this is a 5k/10k race. In other words, about half of the people running are going to turn around at a mile and a half and only the die-hards are here to do the full 10k. Few minutes later and we hit the 5k turnaround. It starts to get quiet, too quiet. I turn around to take a look and there is no one behind us! Everyone who is slower than us did the 5k, i.e. we were in last place for the 10k! This is not happening. My competitive streak kicks in. I will NOT be last. Brad meanwhile, totally doesn’t care. He’s giggling at me and enjoying our leisurely morning run. To be honest I think he is more interested in watching the pro surfers than finishing the run. Huntington Beach is a world destination for surfing so I can’t blame him. It just highlights how Brad is the opposite of me in so many ways. He’s so laid back and hardly competitive at all. He thinks it’s hilarious how worked up I can get. I, in the moment, do not feel there is anything to laugh about. I will NOT be last!I really push myself the last 2 miles, a bit too hard. I’ve got a long long long day of cooking staring at me in the face and I do not have time to get sick or exhausted from running. Brad tries to remind me of this but I can’t see reason. Once we finally pass a couple of people with bibs on their shirts I slow down a bit, knowing we won’t cross the finish line dead last.
Races are fun. I love running because it is generally not competitive, which is good for me. When I go for a jog alone or with Brad, the only person I’m competing against is myself, and that is exactly the life lesson I need. Not to sound obnoxious but running has really helped me to zen me out and create balance in my life. It has taught me to focus my energy on the strength within myself. Obsessing over what others do or do not accomplish diffuses what I’m capable of and drains my potential. In learning to harness what I’m capable of, I truly do feel joy when I see others do the same. Because that’s why we’re all here right? To realize our potential? And no one can do that for us. No one can find mine, and I can’t find yours. And certainly no one can take mine from me, and I can’t steal anyone elses’s, so what’s the point in being jealous? All we can do is support each other’s journeys. I guess I’m not such a horrible person after all. I’m growing. Every now and then though I have to admit it’s pretty to fun to whip out the old competitive streak and run a race. The only finish time that matters is still my own personal finish time, but it sure feels good to pass people every now and then. Now that I’m growing out of the neurotic psycho Gemini I once was, I find myself smiling at the folks who finished before me and cheering on those who finish after. Healthy competition. I rarely run races, but that little ego of mine has saved my life so many times, I think it’s ok to throw a treat her way every now and then.