Participating in this event has me thinking a lot about the nature of competition.
Tour-de-Sock is well underway. Stage Two officially began on Wednesday at 10:00 am my local time. I completed my stage two socks in the wee hours of the morning today. Participating in this event has me thinking a lot about the nature of competition. I have always had a healthy dose of competitive spirit. Sometimes — a lot of times — that’s a really good thing. It can be an excellent motivator. Sometimes it can be a bit of a double edged sword; sometimes it can be downright destructive.
As a kid growing up in a German immigrant family, the expectation for excellence was a visceral thing. The desire and need to impress my parents and teachers was all consuming. Not measuring up was simply not an option. The trouble was that I never actually knew what I was trying to measure up to. So I learned to shake hands with my two best friends: Perfectionism and Competitiveness. Only what I didn’t realize was that they were actually, what is that word… frienemies?
As a card-carrying over-achiever, I pushed myself beyond anything sensible.
As a card-carrying over-achiever, I pushed myself beyond anything sensible. The drive to be best was encouraged without moderation. But it’s an empty quest. That set the stage for my whole life. Am I good at doing stuff? You bet! I’m very good at what I do. And there came a point in my life when I began to realize that this competitive drive was more than just a good “work ethic”. It became clear that it was a set up; it was a form of programming that kept me believing that no matter what, I would never be enough. I’d never be fast enough, thorough enough, efficient enough, skilled enough… or any number of other fill-in-the-blank enoughs too numerous to mention. Having that message running through your neuro-pathways in a never ending loop self deprecation. YUCK!
Many years ago I read a book called The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruis. One of the “agreements” that he speaks of is to always do your best. And it’s how he defines “best” that really helped me to re-frame this perfectionist subroutine in my psyche. Your best, is whatever your best is in that moment in time. For instance, if I had a great sleep and my perfect breakfast and I’m feeling fantastic, my best will be sparkly and impressive. However, if I have the flu, my best won’t compare very well.
When my kids were small, I wrestled with just how much I should encourage competition. A lot of the time, I’d simply avoid dealing with it because I simply didn’t know what constituted a healthy level.
Over the years of being an evolving work-in-progress
Over the years of being an evolving work-in-progress, I have come to understand that healthy competition is a great way to motivate growth and skill development. And IMHO, the best form of competition is when I deliberately compete with myself. I want to see how much I can improve my performance over the last time I checked it against a known benchmark. It’s with this attitude that I approach Tour-de-sock.
Each person competing has their own goal as to what they hope to get out of the TDS experience. I don’t know what all the other people’s goals are. Some, clearly want to be the fastest and take that first place spot. Some just want to knit socks and experience some camaraderie while they do. Others want to support the charity, Doctors Without Borders. Some want to use each stage of the competition to challenge their personal skill level, and in that perhaps learn some new techniques.
I am part of a team
I am part of a team; our team is pretty laid back and I like it that way. There is no expectation that we should all be super-knitters. The expectation is that we will each allow the TDS experience to be a good one: one that fills whatever it is we would like it to fill. So if that means that one of us would like to connect with other knitters who like to knit socks and don’t care whether they finish any of the socks within the cut-off period, that’s perfect. I want to be a team member who appreciates their presence for exactly what it is. This year, I want to push myself to see what I’m capable of (within reason). But I certainly don’t expect anyone else to share my specific goal. I just want us all to be able to feel the joy that knitting brings us.