I’m a competitive person. A good illustration is: I am REALLY fast at typing. And the reason is, way back when in keyboarding class, I sat next to a friend who was a pretty good typist. And I was determined to beat her speed, every single day. Whatever her WPM was, mine HAD to be higher. It just had to. I never told her this, but we were absolutely racing every single day.
I think, subconsciously, this mindset persists today. Everything is competitive. Women’s bodies. Our mothering. How much we’ve achieved by the time we hit 30 (oh hey, that milestone is looming for me in December). Blogging. Followers, likes, whatever. So often, I find myself in this mindset that there’s only one winner. That there’s only so much success, popularity, love, beauty, joy in this world, and someone else getting a lot of it somehow means less left over for me.
Of course I know it’s a lie from the pit of hell, but that doesn’t keep me from often living as if it’s true.
Then the other night, I was watching the first season of Top Chef Masters. (Side note: we haven’t had cable in at least 4 years, so all these old reality shows recently added to Hulu Plus are completely new to me.) I’m used to rather cutthroat cooking shows– from the aptly named Cutthroat Kitchen to even ordinary Top Chef, everyone is out to be the best, and there can only be one best. Except on this episode, where the Masters really demonstrated some actual mastery. Four chefs, widely accepted as the top of their game, owners of multiple restaurants, recipients of multiple James Beard Awards and Michelin stars, were pitted against each other.
While in many folks, this might bring out the competitive streak, the urge to win at all costs and prove who is really the best of the best, these guys weren’t like that at all. Their main challenge was to draw the name of one of the other three chefs and then shop for a mystery basket of ingredients that the other chef would then use to cook from, sight unseen. Many might use this as an opportunity to throw bizarre and discordant ingredients at their opponent, to force him to compete with the cards stacked against him. But to a person, not a one of these Masters did that. They selected ingredients they themselves would have liked to cook. Two gave each other what they called the best mandarin oranges they had ever tasted. Even as they cooked, they were giving each other tips on how to cook Jerusalem artichokes and calling each other “honey.” And none of them realized they were doing anything strange. They all expressed a desire to compete against each other at their best, to set each other up for success, and to enjoy the camaraderie that comes from shared excellence. Even when only one of them won, they all left talking about how their biggest takeaway from the experience was new friendships.
It was like seeing a sermon preached on Bravo TV.
In actuality, I believe in a world in which love, beauty, joy, and even success are infinite. In which we are all only successful, joyful, and loved when everyone else is too. When things are that much more beautiful when they are shared. When my excellence is made even more excellent by your excelling too.
It made me think, actually, of a couple of friends I have made in this blogging world. People I literally found via the #spinabifida hashtag–Mary Evelyn and Sarah. By many accounts, we’re competitors for the same niche, blogging about parenting with the special added flavor of spina bifida thrown in. Except, as we get to know each other, and as we all try to grow in this whole blogging thing, it has actually been all the sweeter to do it together. To have them to shoot a message to– these people contacted me, is this something I should do? This comment made me wonder…what do you think? I kind of want to do this…what would you do? To see their names right alongside mine on some of the larger sites that have been publishing my words lately.
We may not be master chefs, or even masters of blogging, but with these internet friends, whom I’ve never even seen in the flesh, I’ve learned what it can mean to have the kind of people to spur each other on towards excellence. I’d like to be able to live all of my life that way, too. Because good multiples good. Success breed success. And love leads to more and more love. There’s no such thing as scarcity when it comes to this stuff.