I was always quick at learning things, but I was never great at mastering what I’ve learned. You probably know what I’m talking about—where you’re way too good to play with your friends and colleagues, but not nearly good enough to win a major event?

My first competitive venture was with, believe it or not, a spelling bee. It was nothing too high level, but at 12 years old, I had the fire. I wanted to win so badly—no, I wanted to completely destroy everyone else so badly. When I actually competed, I made the finals, but lost when I couldn’t get the word exasperate. I was crushed. I was embarrassed. And I quit shortly after because I couldn’t handle the amount of pressure I put on myself. This would be a trend in the coming decade.

I eventually moved on to basketball, as many of my friends at the time were also into it. While I don’t remember too much about my tenure playing—a bad concussion will do that)—I’ll never forget the words of my dad: “I doubt you could make it. You’re a little too short and you don’t do anything particularly good.” After a number of severe injuries and mishaps, I eventually stopped. Rinse. Repeat.

The thing about success is that for everyone that achieves it, there are hundreds, if not thousands that don’t. We idolize those that do and toss those that don’t aside like they never existed. If you aren’t working yourself to the brink of illness or harm, then you might as well not work at all. What’s worse is how you’re tossed to the side after the fact if you don’t perform to the standards society puts you in. It doesn’t matter how incredibly talented Russel Westbrook is; if he doesn’t win a championship, he doesn’t matter, according to fans.

We put so much emphasis on an unhealthy definition of success, then weaponize said success in an attempt to not only develop an impossibly high standard that only single-maybe double digit people in history have, or will ever attain, but to put down others who are still working on it to the scale of worthlessness for even trying. Perhaps participation trophies wouldn’t be needed if we didn’t dehumanize those who are striving for more than such.

There’s no shame in not coming first in competition, despite what many people who will never come even close to your level in the same competition may lead you to believe. So why does it affect us so much?

For me, there’s already an inherent feeling that I’ll never be good enough. It isn’t necessarily the outside factors making me believe such, but more reinforcing it. This is of course not something you want to be thinking when competing, especially at a high level, but it’s there, and has been there since my MTG days. When it happened in MTG, even if it wasn’t my fault, I’d blame myself; and it would eat away at me. In fighting games it’s so much easier to assess, because there is no RNG, so it’s easier to pinpoint exactly what I could do better. The tradeoff is that the things that happen unfavorably are harder to take in initially, due to things being 100% on me and nothing else.

In short: While it’s harder to deal with the game-deciding errors in fighting games compared to card games, it’s easier to know exactly where said errors occur, and hindsight is less of an influence.

So how do I deal with all of this? I wish I knew the answer.

Until I find said answer, my only hope is to keep going. Five months remain until EVO 2018, and I still have a lot of work to do.

Anthony has been competing in games for the better part of his adult life and is dedicated to improving his game, improving his community, improving himself as a person, and most importantly having fun and enjoying himself while doing so. You can check out his stream to find out which video game is the latest to catch his attention.

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