I am not a competitive person. There’s something about opposing others that fills my stomach with an uncomfortable dread. As a child I flocked to any kind of team based video game. Friends and I uniting against a large force of adversity? Side scrolling beat ’em ups where we had to overcome waves and waves of enemy in order to emerge righteous? They lit me with a sort of fire in the belly. Working together, collaborating, complementing instead of tearing one another down. It was all I wanted, to make something greater than the some of ourselves.
I hated competitive sports. I was an incredibly unfit child. I was poor at sports and my lack of ability made me feel insignificant, worthless. To shore this up I went for positions that kept me out of harm’s way, both physical and emotional. I’d play defensive roles away from the action. In soccer I’d be either goalie or defender and hope that the ball never came my way. If it was in my orbit I’d boot it as far as I could up field rather than passing it to a close team mate and risk it coming back my way any time soon. Risk avoidance and conflict avoidance rolled into one. There was an aggression inherent to these activities that clashed with my natural inclination towards creating bonds. I wanted to have fun with others, not at their expense. Chalk it up to having been bullied repeatedly, but these games seemed to hone in on my ineptitude rather than ability. I knew how I felt when I was treated as lesser and I had no intention of making anyone else feel the same. Victory rang hollow if it meant crushing fellow players. What was the worth of happiness at the behest of others?
It comes out even now when I play games of any variety. I love collaborative efforts, but if I feel like anyone is having a bad time it removes all desire to take part. What kind of enjoyment is derived from making people miserable? We need to be encouraging each other and this seems counterpoint to that desire. I don’t care who wins as long as we all had fun. If I lose, but I went down laughing that’s a solid net positive. The inverse of this is that if I see anyone whose motivations run aggressive then I get swept up in something else entirely. I don’t want to see them lose, I want to them to suffer. How dare they assault the collective goodwill? What gives them the right? It’s happened a few times and I’m always a little shaken by how I react. There’s a core of “righteousness” to it that I’m scared could be better described as “zealotry”.
In my adult life, this behaviour has had a strange impact. I’m driven by a personal desire to succeed and strive to be my best self, but as soon as my ascent bumps into anyone else’s I get speed wobbles. I don’t want to step over anyone else, I want to see them climbing next to me. Whenever I realise I’ve acted in a way that’s torn someone down, I feel conflicted and tense. I know logically that I have a right to take up space, but emotionally this doesn’t quite gel. As with the games above, if I see someone else taking advantage of others they shift to something else in my mind. Much as I prize empathy, I see them as the sum of their actions instead of a three dimensional being. Problematic to say the least.
I was brought up to expect a lot out of myself, but not others. Independence is one of my primary motivations, causing accepting help to become a difficult proposition. Too often it feels like a burden I’m placing on an unwilling participant because of my own insufficiency. Why should they have to deal with my problems? How would that ever be fair? How could I be a friend or loved one if I’d do that to them?
Fuck, I just realised I’d make one hell of a cultist.