Play Your Own Game

yoga silhouetteA few times a week, I go to the local YMCA and work out (read: slowly pedal on the recumbent bike while I lose myself in whatever I’m currently reading).

I enjoy my time there, despite the super-fit older members – many of whom appear to be a) in their 80s and b) able to bench-press many times their body weight – who routinely put me to shame.

This morning in the locker room, I caught a fragment of conversation between two women as they were getting changed:

Woman #1: “So what are the main differences between how I teach the yoga class and how Kendra teaches it? I don’t mean good or bad; I mean differences.”

Woman #2 [suddenly and deeply engrossed in re-rolling her yoga mat]: “Uhhh…”

I missed the rest of it, but I had a pretty good idea of what Woman #2 probably wished she could say:

Well, Kendra doesn’t accost me in the locker room when I’m half dressed and jonesing for my post-workout bagel and coffee…that’s a difference, I suppose…

Now, it could be that I missed the beginning of the conversation. Maybe Woman #2 had abruptly turned to her yoga-teaching companion and said, accusingly, “You’re no Kendra, you know.”

But I think it’s more likely that Woman #1 was simply concerned about how the class had gone and was looking for feedback – or, more likely, plain old reassurance.

It’s natural to want to benchmark our performance against that of others, particularly others in our field (the Kendras in our lives, in other words). But it’s a trap.

When we become too dazzled by the unique brilliance of others, it’s easy to forget that we, too, bring our own brand of sparkle to the table. And we start to spend far too much time trying to play catch-up rather than running our own race.

You shouldn’t be totally oblivious to what the other child care centers in your area are up to, of course, but nor should you waste your time feeling insecure about how you measure up, or trying to copy them.

Instead, focus the bulk of your efforts on developing your unique strengths and identity as a child care provider and expert in the field. Nobody else can do exactly what you do, and there is tremendous value – in both self-esteem terms and dollars-and-cents terms – in realizing that.

As Oscar Wilde put it, “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.” Even Kendra.


  1. Jen,
    Great post today. I love how you took something like a simple overheard conversation and applied it to what we often do: worry about what/how the other side is doing rather than focusing on our unique talents and gifts. If someone else is already the first in something then we have the opportunity to stop trying to compete with that and create our own niche. For example, if someone already started the first childcare center in Tootsi then no matter how hard I try, I can’t be first. But, how I might separate and distinguish myself is to be the first in Tootsi to offer extended hours, or multilingual services. It reminds me of a partial quote from Marianne Williamson: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”

    • Jennifer Carsen says:

      Thanks so much for the comment, Kim! And I love the Marianne Williamson quote, too.

Speak Your Mind