Because I have a relatively long commute (45-60 minutes), I’ve taken to listening to audiobooks. It’s great because I’ve been able to “read” so many more books than I ever could before. Currently I’m listening to “Moneyball”. I’m not overly interested in baseball, although I enjoy a game and a beer on a cool summer evening, but I like listening to non-fiction books and I’ve already listened to most of what the library has to offer. So far it’s pretty interesting. Although I’m still pretty much at the beginning of the book, my current takeaway is that Billy Beane’s perspective on sabermetrics stemmed from his own experiences as a baseball player who was born with all the talent in the world but who never really reached his potential on the field. I can’t say I relate to having that kind of natural talent, but I did find myself relating to some of the frustrations he experienced that eventually led him to quit playing. A “mental skills coach” for the Oakland A’s named Harvey Dorfman said this about Billy:
“He believes in his talent. What he doesn’t believe in is himself. He sees himself exclusively in his statistics. If his stats are bad, he has zero self-worth.”
This kind of thinking has plagued me my whole life. I have always lacked self-confidence, and I’ve always had a hard time believing in myself without some sort of external proof that I succeeded. For example, no matter how many years I’ve been playing field hockey, how many goals I score or tackles I make, I have always been self-conscious about the fact that I didn’t play varsity field hockey in college. This was a choice I made because I wanted to go to UNC, but I wasn’t good enough to play for their team (they are perennial national championship contenders). And yet, I constantly feel inferior to other women I play with just because they played for their college teams. It wasn’t until I made the Maccabi USA field hockey team that I really felt myself relax about it. It was almost as though someone had finally said to me, “Don’t worry Rachel, you are good at field hockey.” But I am anxious about how I’ll feel when I go to Israel and all the girls on the team are/were/will be collegiate players (one of whom even plays for UNC…so jealous). I really hope though that this experience will be a turning point for me to gain some confidence about my playing ability.
I think that this need for external validation is also what drives me to obsess about my performance in CrossFit, and why I’m so damn competitive. The fact that CrossFit is a performance based fitness program is one of the reasons I fell in love with it. It wasn’t just another hamster wheel, it was working out with a purpose. You could almost, sorta win at working out. Seriously, it was like CrossFit was made for me. But as I’ve improved and reached a point where I can no longer rely just on natural ability, I’ve started to become frustrated with my limitations. Every day I think of another thing I need to improve on because if I don’t improve, I can’t be the best and if I’m not the best, how will I know I am any good? It’s easy for some people to say that you should just give it your all and be proud of what you’ve accomplished, but that doesn’t come so naturally to me. I need a benchmark on which to base my success. CrossFit provides that and it’s both the beauty and the curse of it for me. Every workout is measured and we even have benchmark workouts that everyone does and can be used to compare yourself to people around the world. But it also means that you can always say, “I could have gotten a few more reps” or “I could have gone just a little bit faster”. Finding peace with those extra reps or lost seconds is a challenge for me, and it’s an even tougher challenge when I’m face to face with a real life competitor who was able to edge me out (or worse, blow me away). I don’t want to think that I could have tried harder. But it’s hard for me to accept that I tried as hard as I could when I see someone else who achieved something more.
Look, I wish that I could be proud of myself for just getting out there and trying, regardless of the outcome. But at the same time, I like being competitive and I like pushing myself to be the best. Maybe it’s not always healthy and maybe it can keep me from truly enjoying some things, but I do think that overall my life is better because I have never and will never be satisfied by settling for second best. I may never achieve the things I set out to accomplish, but I wouldn’t be able to stand up tall if I didn’t say I tried.