Monday, April 13, 2009

Living (and Skating) in Fear

It’s no secret that I have an innate ability to stress myself out on a regular basis, but what I’m realizing is there appears to be a pattern were the stress reveals itself.

I’ve always enjoyed taking “tests” that reveal more about my IQ or personality, yet I always hated tests that actually counted toward something, like finals or the SATs. Why? Because when I’m doing something for someone else, I have something to lose.

As a kid, I was in all the advanced academic classes, which my parents loved to brag about to others. Knowing this gave me instant anxiety whenever I’d have to take a test. I’d freeze up and instantly panic, believing that if I didn’t do well I’d be taken out of those classes and I’d no longer be above average. And if I was no longer above average, then by methods of deductive reasoning my parents would no longer be as proud of me.

I’ve been putting the same pressure on myself to perform in derby like I did as a kid, only each practice has become like a test to me. It was easy to excel before I decided to try out for the All Stars, and it was even easier to excel when I first came off of injury. Once I made a goal for myself, I had something to lose, and things got unnecessarily harder. I went from “stoked I could do something new” during those moments where I could see a glimmer of progress to “ashamed I couldn’t perform” during all the other times. Not being able to perform at regular practice is hard, but not being able to perform at All Star practice is harder, because I know I’m under a microscope. I appreciate feedback, but I feel like an idiot when I’m doing something as dumb as reaching for another player with my elbows because my footwork isn’t where it should be for this level of play. I love challenging myself, but I’m beginning to think I only love it on my terms.

Truth is, I'm in that place where I’ve been dreading derby lately. I dread going to practice, because I know I’ll fuck up and someone will judge me based on that. I dread not being able to get up to speed as quickly as I think others think I should. I dread the All Star captains rethinking their decision to place me on a game roster, or worse yet, the team. I dread what little I have achieved will be taken away from me. I dread being embarrassed.

I started realizing last night that it wasn’t so long ago that I was having more fun than worry when it came to derby. I was excited to go to practice, to try new things, and to see what I was made of. Why can’t I revert back to that way of thinking now?

I suppose part of me thinks I must be “serious” when in jeopardy of losing something, but when I’m serious I don’t take risks, and when I don’t take risks, I don’t excel. When I’m “serious” I stagnate, I freak out, I stress out, and worst of all, I don’t have fun.

Why am I doing this, I asked myself. My immediate answer was “to go to Nationals”. But then I thought, do I really want to go to Nationals if it means I’m going to be miserable and paranoid and scared until those Nationals rosters are decided? “Yes! It’s Nationals!” said the competitive part of me. That answer was immediately followed by my rational self explaining that I would never make it to Nationals if I kept up this stress level; I’d never make it to Nationals if I didn’t stop worrying so much about what other people thought of me.

Deciding not to worry about what others think of me, especially in relation to the All Stars, is extremely hard for me, because I want to be perceived as a good player and I need to be perceived as a good player in order to play in games. Even though I know exactly how I operate, it’s hard to shift my mindset and tell myself to let go. Even now, as I’m writing this and I know what I need to do, I’m unsure that I’ll be able to do it! It’s just that difficult.

I want to be good at roller derby, and I need to realize that the only way I’ll ever become as good as I want to be is by doing it for me. I went through school and college being a good student for my parents, I’ve gone through the majority of my relationships trying to be a good partner for my partners, and I’ve gone through derby the majority of the time worrying myself sick that I won’t be as good as this person or that person thinks I should be. It’s time that I play derby on my terms – free of judgment from other people. Can I do it? I don’t know, but I sure as hell hope that I can.

I don’t want to live my life in fear anymore, but unfortunately this isn’t something that I can just “turn off”. It’s going to take a conscious effort to allow myself to be driven by opportunity and endless possibilities instead of fear of how I'll be judged by others. One step at a time, one day at a time. That’s all I can do.

1 comment:

Big In Day-town said...

I hope I get to meet you, at a conference or whatnot, because so much of what you write about is the exact same things I feel/think in re: derby and my progress. We are always are own worst critics, at the same time we're terrific cheerleaders for our teammates - explain that logic! LOL Thanks for another great entry.