Standing on that podium, slightly higher up than the people next to you, you hear the cheering, and see your parents beaming, and the crowd applauds as you accept your award. The feeling of elation as the post-competition adrenaline races through your blood is evident to everyone as it courses out through the wide grin on your face.
That’s what it felt like, 4 years ago to get 1st at the Silicon Valley Kids Triathlon. That’s what it felt like to be valued, to feel like the best. When I completed the race, I didn’t even know that I had won. I was on top of the world when I heard. To make matters better, my brother had to leave early from the award ceremony where he had gotten 2nd place in a different race. Collecting the award for him felt so right. I was the winner of my race, I would stand in the podium for my brother, who was also a winner. That was 4 years ago. that was a race for 11 and 12 year olds.
The victory for me that day just validated, and hit the underlying problem for me. As a younger boy, I was unaware that I had insecurity issues. I had plenty of friends in elementary school, and I was good at many of the things I chose to do. I missed the next annual competition for vacation in Hawaii with my family. But I returned the year after, expecting a good race, and a 1st or 2nd place finish.
A few things went wrong that race. I got there late, almost got disqualified, cramped up, all little things. But I wouldn’t have it…that year, I finished in 5th place. I cried long and hard after I finished, in the middle of the field with people around, I didn’t care. 5th…how could this happen to me? To me, it was anything but my fault. I was the victim. My dad spent the next hour consoling me, fixing up my bike, and getting me donuts. I felt a bit better, but it hung with me for a few days. From 1st to 5th.
I didn’t see it at the time, but I was insecure in addition to highly competitive. Why else would someone who got a nice plaque cry about not winning? The year after, I had grown a bit. I placed in 3rd, but (we weren’t there for the awards ceremony since my dad and I thought that I had gotten 4th and not made the podium). I took it well, and that I had done my best.
In hindsight, I’ve learned incredibly much from my experiences. I felt what it was like to be truly great at something. I had felt what it was like to lose, to fail, and to not achieve what I had strived for. But most importantly, I had grown. I saw how hard it was to be the best at something. Being the best is not something for the amateur, it has to be worked towards, thought about, and passionately pursued. 1st place is so much more than just a medal, a plaque, an award. It’s even more than just the experience. First place means all of the hard work, blood and sweat paid off.
Most importantly, it means growth. Even if you don’t get first, you can grow. It’s all about perspective, it’s all about learning. Ask yourself if you have any insecurities, and talk about it with someone, or try to think about it from someone else’s point of view. You may just find out that no one cares much or even notices what you’re so insecure about. Keep moving forward.
Thank you, and have a nice day.