The confusing concept of competition

Slow Mother Blog
May 28, 2012
The confusing concept of ‘competition’
Is it ok to promote a slow, small, simple lifestyle, yet feel excitement and pride watching my children do well in a race or competition?
Should we ever ‘compare’ ourselves with others? 
How do we nurture self-esteem in ourselves and our children without being caught up in an ego-driven world of faster, bigger, more – ‘best’?
Last Friday both Pacha and Yani raced in the ‘zone’ cross country running competition (being 2 of only 3 kids in their school to make it to that level this year). This means that they’re pretty fit and healthy and spend a lot of time outside being ‘physical’. In lining up at the start it was pretty obvious that Yani didn’t really have the body type (long and thin) for long distance running – but he did his best and finished the race in 38th place.
Pacha (whose body does rather look like a grasshopper - as Yani pointed out) came third and will move on to the ‘next level’. Pacha is excited (and a little stressed) to get that far, and has set her sights for the top 6 at the next race so she gets a chance to run in Sydney for the state titles.
My constant refrain to my kids is to try to do the best you can and HAVE FUN! But the reality is that competition cross-country running isn’t really much ‘fun’ - it’s hard and exhausting and can be quite painful! Both Pacha and Yani have learnt good life lessons through the experience  (about putting in effort to get results and not giving up) but I’m grappling with the contradictions in my own world-view (of slow, small and simple) and the deep, constantly reinforced conditioning about being the ‘best’ at something.
How far do I support Pacha in her quest, or should I counsel her not to try at all? The more time and energy I give to supporting my kids in these kinds of life endeavours also means having less to give my own life ‘quest’ (doing whatever I can do to nurture life).  
Sometimes I justify it in my mind like this: the more ‘success’ Pacha and Yani have, the more trust/attraction from mainstream society there may be of our slow, small, simple lifestyle choices. But I’m not sure – I may just be confused and a little desperate in trying to find ways to be at all effective in the struggle to save life on Earth…
We’re already trying to ‘let go’ of comparing ourselves by what we have been conditioned to believe is the main measure of success in the modern western culture: monetary wealth – does the next step involve rejecting competition?


Unknown said...

I think there is nothing wrong with competing in a healthy manner. In a way this is what encourages children to give their best and discover the joy of winning and the disappointment of losing in a match -- both experiences that will let them grow.
But of course this depends on doing it in a healthy manner, which for me means not to start too early (I would say, from the experiences with our two boys, around 14 seems reasonable) and not in a way that overstretches their body or leads to one-sided development.

Slow Mother Anja said...

Thanks for your feedback Christian...I guess being in a mainstream school system starts it all off much earlier, so my approach has been to emphasize doing the best you can in things that you really love doing, as much as possible. We live and learn...