Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I was a very competitive person.
My early identity, before The Introvert Entrepreneur, before being a nonprofit executive, was being a musician. Life was full of contests, auditions and ratings. My first taste of being a successful competitor came in 6th grade, when I joined band 4 weeks late, yet won first chair clarinet within a week through a series of challenges. Boy, did I feel like I was IT!
Throughout junior high, high school and college, I was always competing in some way: concert band, marching band, choir, math competition. You couldn’t tell, but my outward “I’m going to win” confidence was belied by my internal low self-esteem.
That meant every competition and audition felt like life or death, euphoric success or catastrophic failure.
I’d forgotten what that tasted like until this week.
A friend sent me a link to a speaking audition that was connected with a conference being held later this month. On something of a whim, I decided to enter. It was free, only took about an hour of my time, and what did I have to lose?
I made my video and uploaded it. The video wasn’t perfect, but I felt it was solid and a respectable entry. As others started to upload their auditions onto YouTube, I took time to watch.
And Competitive Beth came out, with a vengeance.
What started out as a whim became a full-blown burning desire to WIN! Some of the other auditions I watched were good, most were so-so, a few were great. Based on what I saw, I felt I had a chance. A good chance.
The judges were set to announce the top 10 semi-finalists on Monday evening. Driving to church on Sunday morning, I felt this weird sensation in my gut. I thought, “What is that? I can’t even describe it!”
And then it hit me: I was NERVOUS! It had been so long since I’d been outright nervous that I didn’t recognize the sensation at first.
Now, that’s not to say I haven’t felt tinges of nerves or anxiety over the past few years. It’s just been a while since I’ve experienced the ever-present knot-in-my-stomach feeling.
And so, when I wasn’t selected for the Top 10, I crashed. I cried and had a little hissy fit. My disappointment was deep. I started second-guessing myself and felt like someone had run over my dream with a Mack truck.
I also wondered, “Who is this, crying over a superficial loss?” In reality, it was not a big deal. It wasn’t even a small deal. It was a learn-and-move-on deal.
But it all reminded me of that competitive streak that runs through me. It runs a little softer than it did when I was younger, and it certainly has more perspective and less attachment. By the time I woke up Tuesday morning, I was back to my normal optimistic self.
Saying “normal,” though, isn’t really accurate. I was a transformed optimistic self. My confidence had taken a ding, yet I emerged stronger. Determined. Grateful.
My chance to be in the spotlight comes this Tuesday night at Ignite Seattle 12. I’m one of the featured speakers, and I’m pretty darn excited about it. Reflecting on my experience of this past week, I realize that feeling that nervousness was good for me. It was like a dress rehearsal for how I’ll probably feel all day Tuesday.
Without my “failed” audition, I wouldn’t have been as prepared for the spectacular opportunity that comes next week.
So now, when that knot in my stomach takes up residency, I’ll recognize it. I’ll make friends with it. I’ll put on my performer hat and channel the nervousness into excitement and curiosity.
I also think I need to inject a little more nervousness into my life. When we feel nervous, it means we care. That we’re stretching or taking a risk. We’re opening our hearts a little wider. And in that opening, magic can come in.
I hope leaving comments doesn’t make you nervous! Please share: What makes you nervous? How do you manage the feeling? What risk has brought you the most reward?