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Competition Expectations and Why You Can’t *Really* Have Any

So I know the title of this blog is not the most uplifting thing, but I wanted to write about this because oftentimes the most prevalent emotion after a show for any competitor is CONFUSION. Yes, you may feel elated, or sad, or disappointed, or accomplished or hungry :) But often, if a competitor did not place (and for some, did not get 1st place), more than anything she is confused and vows to “work harder” next time, even when the idea of somehow working harder seems impossible, considering how hard you worked in the first place.

Perpetuating the idea that you didn’t place or win because you “didn’t work hard enough” is doing yourself a disservice.

In fact, 99% of the time, it is not about working harder, but about doing things differently for the next show, and instead focusing on honing your specific physique from one show to the next. Still, this is trial and error, and still, this is somewhat of a crap shoot. You can show up leaner than everyone else, more muscular than everyone else, more symmetrical than everyone else, and it is still just what the judges see on that particular day. (In fact, Jillian once emailed the judges for feedback after a show and they told her that she needed to “make herself be seen more.” Huh? No wonder you’re confused!)

You can stand with that physique in front of one set of judges on one day and win, and another set of judges the next day and not even place. This is what it is. And unfortunately, in the world of physique competition, there just are no guarantees.

So why even do a show, you ask? :) Ultimately, you need to compete for you, and only you. It cannot be with the EXPECTATION of winning a trophy or placing or going pro. Of course, you need to have the attitude that you will do those things if that’s your goal, and of course work your ass off to improve your chances, but at the end of the day, everything that is out of your control (i.e. what the judges see) is not guaranteed.

I have met a lot of first-time competitors who expect to win. Though it’s admirable and certainly shows determination, this kind of “1st place or bust” mentality can get you into a lot of trouble should you not win. Disappointment, confusion, anger (towards the judges, other competitors, your coach and most importantly yourself)–all negative emotions that ultimately do not serve you. Some of it is unavoidable and it is hard to harness negative feelings when tension is high and carbs are low :) but ultimately, if you can come from a place of doing a show for the right reasons, you will be better served in the end.

In our opinion, the “right” reason to compete is simply to prove to yourself your own power.

And in an effort to potentiate that power, doing show after show and making improvements in your own physique, is what it’s all about. In a sport that is all about comparison, the best thing you can do is compare yourself to your prior self, period.

For example, Nicole Wilkins in at the top of the sport of figure–the epitome of fitness, leanness, femininity all in one. I recently came across some of her “before” pics, and I think this solidifies the power of self-comparison (below).

In Nicole’s first show, she looks amazing by any standard, yet she could be any one of us. (She did, in fact, win her show–something VERY rare for a first time competitor) In her “after” shot from last year’s Figure Olympia, she also looks amazing, just that much tighter & more symmetrical. However, the photos are taken 7 YEARS APART! Talk about hard work and determination!

So, really, how can someone who is completely new to the sport EXPECT to win, or even place? If they do, that is wonderful and something to be celebrated. But regardless, maintaining perspective throughout the process is key to your personal fulfillment and sense of self-worth. It is unfortunate, but like in life, there are no guarantees in the sport of bodybuilding, and having the expectation that there is can be a dangerous thing.

Taken with permission from Nicole’s Facebook page

So. Take-way message? If you are going to compete, do it to compete against yourself–your old self. Be determined to get better, improve, change and grow, but release the idea that you “have to win or else.”

Once you can liberate yourself from all expectation, you are free to train hard, work your ass off, work toward your goals AND be happy at the end of the day regardless of outcome.

I would love to hear your thoughts. Which is more important: to EXPECT to win and then be disappointed when you don’t OR to maintain perspective and be happy with a win or a dead last placing?  Does expectation of winning drive you more? Or can you be just as determined without the expectation of winning? When I did my first show, all I expected (and hoped!) was that I would not embarrass myself. That was my ONLY expectation. And when I actually won my first show, it was unexpected and the icing on the cake. I found it harder to not have expectations after my first show…what about you? Let me know :) ox Jill

Related: The Biggest Loser

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