Your Turn: The plight of the perfectionist

Have you ever felt like nothing you did was good enough? Kelsea Brockmeier writes about her struggle to differentiate between “doing her best” and “being the best.”

From Kelsea:

Horse Nation, I have a secret.

My name is Kelsea and I’m a perfectionist. I’ve done my share of competitions, soccer games, and tennis matches in my life. I’ve recently realized that I’ve never left a single one of those events with a smile on my face. Ever. Not a single one.

In the first show of my horsie career (a dressage show), I came home with a 3rd place ribbon on a little Western Pleasure-trained Paint. But if I could’ve just gotten a little more impulsion, I could’ve won. How dumb of me, letting my nerves block my brain, and riding so stupidly.

Later, I showed a beautiful, seasoned, talented mare and I won my first blue ribbon with her. But I should have won more blue ribbons. I left the show feeling like a failure. It was my chance, and I still only managed one win. What was wrong with me?

However, I didn’t fully realize how bad it was until a few weeks ago. I took Diesel to a local show, and we overcame a horrific warmup (as in, he ran away with me… twice) to win several ribbons, including a blue–and I can’t stop thinking about how we should’ve been better. We only got the win because the other horses weren’t consistent. Third in equitation? I should have gotten first, but I took my leg off of my horse. Stupid, stupid me.

The frustrations don’t stop at competition, either–even when I am learning something new to both myself and my horse, I find myself becoming upset and emotional when we don’t pick up on it easily. The voice inside my head becomes louder than my instincts: “You should be better than this,” it says. “Why can’t you do this already?”

I think it’s a problem that many of us equestrians have, both on our horses and in our lives. Something about riding puts the fire in our hearts–the fire to always be better than we are, the fire to be the best in everything we do.  The fire is what makes us face down a huge fence, tough dressage test, or whatever your obstacle of choice, and go at it without the slightest regard to the voices in our minds telling us that we can’t.  It’s a very powerful thing, and it can make you feel like you’re on top of the world just as quickly as it can make you feel like you’re the tiniest person in the world.

It’s very important that equestrians realize that the goal they are chasing isn’t necessarily a tangible or even plausible one. No one will EVER feel that they are perfect. Even McLain Ward (my idol/dream husband) was quoted as saying that his mistake cost Antares F the win at Devon two Saturdays ago. If McLain makes mistakes, you can bet that you will too.

Don’t beat yourself up because you aren’t “there” yet. Horses give us endless journey. Enjoy the ride.

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