I’ve recently had to make a decision. I had two choices: leave camp as scheduled, or apply to stay for an additional week. This seems simple, but I of course complicated it. Staying could have involved a place in my department to assist with an intensive week of riding – the campers are taken on one particularly long trail ride, and generally get to work at a higher level than we usually do within the equestrian programme. Should I not have been offered this role, I’d have possibly been offered a role in a different department. I quickly managed to decide that horseback was all I wanted to do, but I still wasn’t sure whether or not to sign up.
I normally rate myself as a good decision-maker: I’m able to weigh up pros and cons objectively, and assess the risks and benefits by myself. There were a lot of factors in my decision making process, and although I didn’t want it to be, the situation was marred by events which were going on at camp during this timeframe.
I wanted the decision to be taken out of my hands, but of course it wasn’t. I’m not even sure what finally made me decide, but I ultimately opted to keep my hat to myself and leave camp as planned. After the fact, I realised I had learned something about myself: one of the things which was holding me back from attempting to stay was my fear of competition.
Like many people, I enjoy winning – whether it’s a board game, a bet or the race for a job, being regarded as the best is a great feeling. What I’m good at is self-defeat. I’m highly aware of my strengths and weaknesses, and am good at highlighting the former when required. What I’m also adept at is comparing myself to other people, and perceiving them to be better than I am.
This is where I’m perhaps unusual: many professional athletes will analyse their competition obsessively, working on tactics to learn how best to overcome their adversaries. I will also analyse my peers, but my own perception often has them coming out on top of me. If I can’t see what I’m up against, I’m more than confident in my ability to demonstrate why I’m the best, why a job should be mine or how I can win. But when able to compare my own performance directly with someone else’s, I’m more likely to spot my own flaws and their best bits than reasons why I’m best-suited to a situation.
Looking back on incidents in my life (a high success rate at job interviews, versus a failure in a public election at university, for example), this becomes more and more obvious – competition doesn’t fuel my fire, it puts me off. Show me my opponents and I’ll baulk. Keep them hidden and I’ll thrive.
Changing my mentality regarding this could be a key to moving forward, though understanding why I do this is probably a good first step. For now, this race is over and the decision is made.