I have three lengthy scatterthoughts drafted about various topics, but I haven’t felt strongly enough about any of them to actually click the “Publish” button. And that’s fine…sometimes it’s nice when writing is just about the process, and not the result.
Instead, let’s talk about softball.
Today marked the third game of my first softball season, and something interesting happened: one of my teammates told me that I’m “consistent”. In particular, my teammate was complimenting my throws from shortstop to first base, saying that she was always confident that it would be a good throw.
That was a surprise, because consistency has typically been my biggest challenge in sports. When it comes to athletics, I’ve defined myself as a person who either makes dumb mistakes or brilliant plays, with one often coming right after the other. As a teenager playing baseball, I’d make an amazing grab at a ground ball, and follow it up with a bad throw. It’s almost as if I expected it, and gave up before the ball even left my hand. When I think about my childhood, that lack of confidence in myself is one of biggest regrets. And I regret that I’ve continued to carry it with me…this expectation that I’ll screw up probably hampers my golfing, too.
I admit to having a similar fear of failure in my personal and professional life, but it manifests itself differently when it comes to work, volunteering, and performing arts. I think the difference is that in those realms, I believe that I have the tools to succeed. Whereas with sports, I’ve always believed that I’ll fail.
On the field, I’ve been my own worst enemy. And maybe it’s time to rethink that stance.
The truth is that I’m throwing the ball extremely well. I’ve made some great throws, and nine times out of ten they’re right on the mark. That’s why my teammate offered her praise, and why others echoed it (including some people from the opposing team). Right now, there’s every reason for me to believe that I’m going to make the throw, and no reason to doubt myself.
There’s no reason to believe that I’m going to screw up, just because my biased view of history says that I will. And even if I do fail once in awhile, there’s no reason to start expecting it as a given.
But there’s every reason to get back up and try again.
Makes you wonder what kind of athlete I would have been if I hadn’t held myself back so much, and had perhaps been more competitive. I hid behind my small stature and middling hand-eye coordination, knowing that there were always bigger, stronger, and faster kids than me on the playground. I accepted early on that my brother, sister, and father were better athletes than me, and left it at that. I made excuses for why I was a mediocre athlete, and quite likely adjusted my performance to suit.
Makes me wonder why I’ve been able to overcome fear of failure in so many aspects of my life, but not in athletics. Why I’ve been able to put the intelligence, perseverance, and determination for which I’m often known to work everywhere else, and be the guy who people rely on to get things done.
Makes me realize that the coping mechanism I put in place three decades ago to shield my lack of confidence has been in place for far, far too long.
And it makes me glad that I’m finally doing something about it.