A student, teacher and friend of mine reflected back to me recently that he thought I was not afraid to fail.
That reflection kind of stopped me in my tracks. I’ve been thinking about that a lot recently. Rolling it over and over in my mind. Am I afraid to fail? Yes. No. Maybe. Yes, of course I am sometimes. Who’s not afraid to fail? No, there’s just a particular path I’m on and that’s the general direction I’m journeying. And, well, maybe both. The tinge of possible failure arises and recedes as I remember what I’m really called to do and I sometimes experience the waffle back and forth between the two.
When you consider the opposite of failure is success. Accomplishing. Achieving. Winning. Very destination oriented and black and white. You either get there or you don’t. And, I have always been competitive. Since I was a little girl, I always loved to win. I used to believe that the purpose of playing anything was to win. Winning was succeeding. It was a sign you did well. We were supposed to want to be winners right? I played many years of basketball and wanted to win every game. I wanted to win MVP. I wanted to make the best grades. I wanted to be top in my class. I was hard-coded to win. I wanted to be the best. Winning=happiness, right?
#winning is pretty popular these days. Our culture is one of consumption and competition. We love our reality TV shows. Contests. And most systems combine the two – like social media – consumption and competition. How fast can I respond to that notification!!?? I win at…. Instagram? How can I out-wit others on a post?! I win at…Facebook?
It can feel like we are competing with everyone from what we wear to where we live to what we drive to who we associate with. In social media, even competing to win our thoughts: To win our moral stance. To win our social activism. To win our fashion sense. To win our yoga posture.
If we’re not careful, the things that we adopt in hopes of elevating us, we often use to degrade others. And, we can view or covet other’s success or winning as an indication of a flaw or failing in ourselves.
Our desire to be unique and special morphs into needing to subjugate and, well, win. For example, when we hear someone say they are going on an exotic trip, the way we can go right into thinking about why we can’t rather than being happy for them. Or, when a peer shares some new development we can begin to compare that with what we are offering, rather than basking with them in their success. And, even in yoga, when we run into another yogi or yogini the way we can compare our physique or asana practice with theirs looking rather than just understanding we each have our own unique bodies and practices. We can take a statement of others as a judgment or a point against us on the scorecard of life.
But, who’s keeping score? And, who are we competing against anyway? We are the only ones who can live our life. We can’t live anyone else’s. What are we trying to win anyway? We can’t out-win anyone’s happy. There’s an endless supply of it for each and every one of us.
“You win some, you lose some,” my mom used to tell me when I was little. She knew what I needed to learn. “It’s not all about winning,” I’d hear her say. She used to repeat this mantra-almost after every game-“the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat,” in an effort to remind me of the bigger picture. And, also very simply, “It’s OK-I still love you,” I’d hear from her (and still do) at least 108,000 times.
Now, in my 40s I’ve won a few and I’ve lost a few. I can feel myself relaxing into the whole person I am and untying the knots of this tightly bound pattern in my being. Win or lose at what I’m doing, holding steady to the call of my soul, focused on a steady connection to an unchanging center point. Performing actions not necessarily to win, but with a desire to know myself more wholly. I’m watching my own children win and lose. At spelling tests, soccer games and student council races. I think of my mom often, “you win some, you lose some.” And, I can say that the losses seem to offer at least as much character building as the wins do. That I’m astounded at what awakens within a connection between us when there’s a “loss”. And, that we are practicing a steadiness whether we “win” or “lose” because we are obviously all guaranteed both on this greater journey in life. Maybe #winning is simply finding a steady point within that is unaffected whether you "win" or "lose".