3rd Place Winner, 2nd Place Loser

Okay, story time: I did the thing where I write a blog post at school and email it to myself. I did this yesterday. Thursday. A day that is technically a scheduled “blog post” day. But I forgot to post it. So, you really do never get posts on the right days. But that’s what it is, man. On to the post.

I keep wanting to post some story things for you people to read, but I am faced with a distinct lack of them to show you. I have a couple ideas, though, so hopefully the next post will be some narrative for you to read instead of me just talking at you.

So, anyhow, I wrote an essay way back in … November, I think? For the VFW “Voice of Democracy” contest. Basically, they give you a prompt, you write an essay, you record it (it has to read between 3-5 minutes), and submit the essay and recording.

The prompt this year was “looking into our past to find hope for the future.” I wrote what I think is a pretty solid essay; I’m very proud of it.

It one at the school-level, and advanced to districts. My essay last year did, too, but I didn’t place. This year, my essay placed at districts.

I got third.

This is a respectable thing; out of all the essays to advance to districts, I was in the top three. I’m honored and grateful to have that.

But the little, nagging, competitive, perfectionist part of me is in the back of my head saying, “Well, yeah, but you didn’t win,” nastily.

Which is stupid! It’s great to place at all! I got a certificate, a shiny medal (like, really shiny – it’s satisfying), and a li’l cash money.

But I still don’t feel like a winner. I feel like I came just short of victory, which is that much more disappointing.

You’ve heard the saying “second place is the first place loser?” Well right now, it’s kind of like “third place is the second place loser.”

But it’s still weird, because I really am proud of how my essay did and happy and grateful to have won even a little bit.

I think a lot of people have that kind of internal conflict. For me, it’s driven by the hyper-competitive perfectionist in me. I always, always, always want to win, and when I don’t, I feel like a failure.

Which is ridiculous; not everything is a competition, and even all competitions don’t need to be won by me. Sometimes, other people win, and that is good.

I think the best way I’ve found to combat that part of me that’s always seeing what I do as a failure is to first look at the facts. For example:

-You wrote an essay that you like.

-That essay won at the lower level.

-That essay advanced.

-That essay was awarded third place.

Then I look at those facts as if they were facts about someone else; when I look at that list as if it’s someone else’s accomplishment, it does actually look like an accomplishment to me.

Then I have to come around to realize that it’s still an accomplishment even though I’m the one who did it, not some stranger I’m hearing about.

I think that’s really important, to recognize your own achievements as such. Especially people that have that perfectionist tendency like me, because the tendency is to never be satisfied with anything we do and always see what could be better, not what is.

When the reality of the situation is that the finished product is what’s there, and it should be recognized on the same level as you would recognize someone else’s work; because your work is just as worthy as anyone else’s, despite how you might feel right off the bat.

So, yeah. That’s something I’ve been trying to work on myself, and I think it’s really important for everyone, too.

Like I said, I hope next time you see a post, it’s something write-y, not talk-y. We shall see! 🙂

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