By Loraine Debnam
At the end of this month Lethbridge will be the host city for Skate Canada. The competition is the second in a six-event series leading up to the Grand Prix of Figure Skating. The others are held in the United States, China, France, Russia and Japan.
We will welcome athletes, coaches, officials and spectators to our beautiful part of the world.
Events will include men’s singles, ladies’ singles, ice dance and pairs. Canada has the defending champions in the last two categories, so the pressure will be on for them. Participants are among the best in the world and the young athletes are an inspiration to us all, as they strive to reach their personal bests.
Is there any better example for all of us? Shouldn’t we all set goals within our reach but still require dedication and hard work to stretch each of us to our potential? Personal bests are the only thing we can expect from those around us and from ourselves. Too often when we are dealing with those we love, or work with (or for), or encounter on a regular basis, our expectations are far from realistic.
Downsizing, right sizing and budget cutbacks have created an environment of “more with less” and more significantly “less with less.” Less service, less interest, less involvement and less remuneration leads to higher stress, higher expectations from others and unfortunately, higher disappointment. But, if each one of us is doing our personal best, that is all that can be done. As we watch our young people compete, we will be excited and enthusiastic and delighted to see them represent our country, as they meet contestants from many other nations of the world. That should be enough, right?
It seems to me to be distressing we can be so uplifted by the personal best of someone else and so disappointed when it comes to our own performance. Why do we so often let setbacks and detours become the focus of too much of our attention? Self-esteem comes from an acceptance of ourselves, as well as our achievements, knowing that we can learn and improve. It’s important to acknowledge and admit even if we do something exceedingly well, eventually someone will come along who can do it better.
Researchers have found people with high self-esteem are healthier physically, are more tolerant and have more satisfying relationships. Isn’t winning more about how you feel and what you learn, than about medals and ribbons and prizes and being best? Having an ideal is not a bad thing but when you make it the rule you live by, you set yourself up for disaster. If you use perfection as a daily standard, it initiates a vicious cycle of being disappointed, trying harder, being disappointed, which makes it more difficult to try harder — and so it goes.
I hope Skate Canada provides an opportunity for young people of all the nations to come together, to get to know each other, to exchange ideas and make friends with athletes from other countries. Competing in the spirit of fair play and stretching to be “the best you can be” should be an extra bonus.
In the words of one of our own champions, Brian Orser, competing can be “a rare and wonderful experience.” But then, with the right attitude, life can be as well.