Only if I’m the Best


In seventh grade I was pretty much the Gabrielle Reece of our volleyball team.

I would stand confidently behind the thick painted black line, scuffed volleyball nestled in my left hand, eyes narrowed.

My right arm would effortlessly swing, lobbing the ball clear over the net, to the utter devastation of my less skilled classmates on the opposing team.

Seriously. I got it over the net every time.

And that’s about the time I decided I loved volleyball.

Upon entering high school, I thought it only natural I share my prowess by trying out for the junior volleyball team.

I approached the gymnasium with my head held high, prepared to unleash my power arm upon the masses.

But what I saw sucked all the air out of my fragile little balloon of an ego.

The room-a stark white football field of a room- was filled with about fifty 13 and 14 year-old girls.

Not even girls.


They were twice my size.

They were diving.

And spiking.

And-horror of horrors-they were serving overhand.

Having committed one foot in the door already, I got swept into the first part of the tryout.

The coach was barking out drills. Drills. A few months ago just getting the ball over the net was enough.

But now it most definitely was not.

I stumbled over my own feet, getting turned around in all the crissing and the crossing. Meanwhile, my super sized counterparts leapt like gazelles, slamming the ball into oblivion.

I wasn’t going to make the team.

And so I did what any reasonable person would do in such a situation.

I bolted.

While everyone else was busy with their Olympic-level-plays and super cool knee pads and actual muscle definition, I ran out the door, my brown hair streaming behind me.

My face burned with shame; I thought I would be good enough.

When friends asked how the tryout had gone, I loftily explained that I had chosen not to join due to my need to focus on schoolwork.

And that’s about the time I decided I hated volleyball.

 * * *

That moment marked the beginning of a pattern in my life.

A pattern of basing my decisions on whether or not I am talented enough in a given area before pursuing it.

You see, mediocre is just not an option. I consider it the most offensive of all four letter words.

I  don’t want to be comfortably settled in the middle of the bell curve.

I want to be at the veeeerrrrryyyyy right hand side.

Maybe with one other person.

Preferably by myself.

But lately I’ve been wondering.

Have I missed out?

Is there some divine fulfillment, some incredible adventure, some avenue of self expression I’ve neglected simply because I’m not ‘the best’ at it?

Would my life look different if I had chosen my path based solely on what I love?

On what makes my heart sing?

On what ignites the boldest of fires in my soul?

As opposed to what earns me the highest marks.

Or what everyone compliments me on.

Or what I know I can sail through with ease, rather than having to bend over backwards just to stay afloat.

I’m not saying I’m going to pick up that dingy volleyball and reclaim my adolescent dreams.

I’m saying I need get okay with not being the best.

My fear of not being good enough kept me from trying out for the junior high volleyball team.

But it also kept me from pursuing other dreams.

You know, all the big, audacious, never-in-a-million-years dreams.

Those are the best kind.

But I stayed small.

And safe.

And that is not how I want to live.

I don’t want to limit my life to the few areas I excel in.

How boring.

I want goals that make me stretch and grow.

I want to pursue what makes my heart sing.

I want a fire stirred in my soul.

I want to chase dreams that bust me out of my comfort zone.

I may not end up being the best. I may end up with a participation ribbon instead of a great shiny trophy. 

But I’m trusting the journey will be worth it.


13 thoughts on “Only if I’m the Best

  1. This resonates with me so much! There are some things I haven’t even dared to try because I’m not sure if I’ll be good at it and if I can’t be good at it… Well, then what’s the point? I’ve also given things up prematurely because I wasn’t excelling fast enough for my liking.

    Lately, I’ve been reminding myself to not despise the day of small beginnings and to keep plugging away. Maybe I’ll be good at it eventually, maybe not… Still working on being ok with the “maybe not” part. :p

    • Dani you are expressing my feelings exactly. I so want to be amazing at something right away! And how often does that really happen? I so appreciate you taking a moment to comment – and making me realize we are so not alone 🙂 Much love

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  4. I love this. My little child has an intellectual disability, and I am learning so much from her. She’s not going to be the “best” but she is THE BEST!

    • I totally agree with you Ursula . . . how wonderful for you to have such a great example in your daughter. And how great that she has such an encouraging mom! Thank you so much for reading

  5. We must be kindred spirits- I am EXACTLY the same way! I just started a FB page for my photography “business,” but am flipping out over the fact that I may not be the best photographer out there. And we won’t even talk about the 15+ years of a love/hate relationship with soccer based on my level of talent at the given moment…
    Now, how to actually BE ok with not being the best?

    • So impressed that you were courageous enough to start a FB page! I think to get ok with not being ‘the best’ we just need to keep taking steps forward. Steps that are out of our comfort zone and that scare us ridiculously. It sounds like you’re doing that already which is amazing! I think we also need to redefine what we consider ‘the best’. Often it’s rooted in perfectionism and, in that case, ‘the best’ isn’t even possible. I so appreciate you reading and sharing a little bit of you . . .perhaps joining a soccer team is the next order of business??

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