A guest post to motivate, encourage and inspire...
Climbing Off the Ladder: Community vs. Competition
Whether someone else said community vs. competition or the phrase simply popped into my head one day during a yoga class, I can’t say for sure. The tension between the two struck me when I first started practicing at a new studio. I was the outsider, comparing the lithe bodies around me to what I felt inside – frustration, struggle, and a desire to give up. Yet community vs. competition has continued to be my mantra. Years into my yoga practice, when I’m tempted to think, Look at me! Look how high my leg is! this mantra is more important than ever.
High rung or low, if I’m on a competitive ladder I’m isolated. And isolation is a spirit killer. Isolation whispers, "guard your image." Isolation carps “why her, not me?”
Social media makes it easy to compare one’s insides to others’ outsides. Easy to tally another writer’s publication credits and awards. Easy to think that beautiful family viewed through the screen is gliding through life. The irony is such thinking – driven by a thirst for a bigger life – actually contracts one’s possibilities.
I’m reminded of my grade-school teachers who urged during a test, keep your eyes on your own paper. Getting caught up in what someone else is doing keeps me from the hard work that must be done on my own pages, my own mat, or in my own family. The good news is when I keep my eyes on my work, my cup runneth over. Generosity for others pours out. I delight in their successes.
Such camaraderie has not come naturally. I’ve learned it. I marvel at friends and colleagues who seem to have been born with exceedingly generous hearts. Their example is a beacon to me when smallness could sow its ugly seeds.
My mother recently took her first writing workshop. She worried that this might upset me because writing is my thing. But I encouraged her. After the first class, she reported back that many in her workshop were surprised her daughter had supported her writing so lovingly. When I asked why they were surprised, she said, “Apparently, that’s not what mothers and daughters do.”
Whether my community is my mother, thirty other yogis breathing beside me, or the scores of writers with whom I connect on a weekly basis – I’ve learned not to make life a sharp-elbowed competition. There’s enough good stuff to go around. In fact, there’s more when we’re all in it together. From helpful critique to publication and agent leads to career-making breaks, I’ve seen that first hand in my writing communities.
I have two dogs – a doe-eyed black lab and a needy Chihuahua-Beagle mix. I’d love to say I’m always the graceful, self-contained lab instead of the needy little guy who noses his way in, wanting equal head pats when the lab gets attention. But the truth is, I’m both.
What I know for sure is that when I work hard at what I love, I win no matter what. I’ve found that my hard work has led to days when it’s my turn to shine and I can bask in the pats. Other days, it’s my turn to sit back, applaud, and dole out the love. Grace comes in being grateful for both.
Join our After Page One series. We’re looking for 300 to 500-word guest posts that motivate, inspire, and encourage other mama-writers, and we’d love to feature YOUR thoughts about getting started, getting back to a writing project, integrating writing with motherhood, reading, or having a positive attitude. The list is endless, but here are some questions that might help you get started. We’ll publish a short bio so readers can learn more about you and your projects.