A small group of girlfriends were playing euchre. The game was new to some of us, so we were learning, teasing, and having fun. I’ve never been one to play a game just for fun…I am always playing to win. I know…it is a sickness as you will learn in this post. As the game went on I became more and more frustrated that I “couldn’t get it.” I started in with the sarcastic jokes, self-deprecating humor, and the f-bombs escalated. Soon, I was no longer laughing but silent and serious. I could feel the heat rising in my face, a lump forming in my throat and a tightening in my chest. Frustration and anger were just below the surface.
Then, I quite literally lost it. I just started crying…intense and ugly. I got up from the table and went to the other room to be alone. I had no words to explain. I felt childish and ashamed. My friends came to my side, and we all knew without saying, that this was about much more than our game of euchre. The game triggered something that had been waiting to explode for a while.
The next morning I sat quietly working to unpack what happened. I’m still not sure what I’d been stuffing that needed out, but I have to explore this extreme need to be the best at everything. I let competition and comparison control me. I can’t enjoy playing games with my friends just to play? That makes me so sad. My ego is robbing me of so much joy! Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time these extreme behaviors have come out in what should have been a relaxing, enjoyable moment. My ego wrecks me, and it threatens to wreck my relationships with others.
As I was learning to drive, my mom took my sister and I out to the country to practice in our 1982 Honda Civic. My sister had just taken her turn and flawlessly maneuvered the stick shift and the gravel roads. I took the drivers seat, shifted to first gear, let my foot off the break, and tried to find that perfect pace of letting off the clutch and putting on the gas. I went too fast and killed it. I started it back up and tried again. I tried a few more times until my mom and sister were laughing so hard I thought they would pee their pants. Instead of laughing, I started screaming and told them to shut up. I got out of the car, slammed the door, and began walking. Whoa.
Just a few years back my husband and I were playing tennis. I was giving him grief about taking it easy on me and told him to play his hardest. We went at it and I lost. I was so upset that I threw my racket and broke it. Needless to say, he will never play tennis with me again.
Replaying these situations makes me sad and ashamed. I let my ugly monster ego destroy what should be relationship building moments and great memories. I put too much of my self-worth into being good at things. I feed my hunger for acceptance and admiration from others by doing and achieving. I’m so laser-focused on the accomplishment and what I’m doing that I forget about the process and who I’m being.
Rewind to that card game. What if instead of being so focused on winning, I was focused on being the most fun person to play with regardless of the outcome? If in the car I would have handled the situation with lightheartedness and grace, and just kept trying. How much fun could my husband and I still have playing tennis if I would have simply patted him on the butt and said, “I love to see you win? ”
The vow I made to myself and my friends the morning after the card game was to continue to explore this and put myself in more situations with a high likelihood of failure. I need to learn how to fail better. To practice what kind of person I want to be in the middle of failure. Because I want to continue to grow and be better, for myself and for those I love.
As Glennon Doyle put in my face in her book “Love Warrior,” I can choose to be perfect and admired or I can choose to be real and loved. I choose real and loved and I will continue to choose it until it comes naturally. I will work to master the capacity to adjust to things beyond my control so I can be my best self in any situation.