My husband is actively pursuing opportunities and training that will equip him to develop new skills and strengthen his existing abilities. This is admirable. And I don’t like it.
Why? Didn’t I just say that it was good? Why would I dislike something like that? Those are valid questions and legitimate signs of underlying issues.
*sigh* It’s pretty simple, at the core, but very difficult to deal with. Remember the success that I had as a child? I did very well in school, and because it was the predominant ranked activity of my youth, academics became an analogy for performance in other areas of my life: everyone has some degree of ability in the area, it is beneficial and necessary to rank individuals according to their ability levels, ability = performance, and so on. This may seem innocuous, but assumptions like that become dangerous quickly. I’ll unpack a few of these assumptions while I try to come to terms with the underlying issues that make me uncomfortable with my husband’s success.
1. Everyone has some degree of ability in the area.
This assumption comes from the mandates placed on students within educational systems- everyone has the ability to learn to read or to do basic arithmetic, for example. We teach these skills to everyone, because everyone is capable of learning them if they simply try hard enough. It was this kind of logic that won me attention during events like spelling bees, but this logic also justified coaches and gym teachers in telling me that I was capable of running a 4 minute mile or consistently hitting a softball (neither of which I have ever achieved).
Pushing everyone into a rigid mold in the hopes of making us “well-rounded” does not guarantee results. My body type is well suited for strength-based activities: I loved the weight room and routinely leg-pressed 550 lbs. (As an aside, 730 was my max, but it was an unsafe weight. 550 lbs allowed me to do 2-3 sets of 15 reps per day.) I am not made for speed or coordination, and I have repeatedly preformed below average in both types of activity. No matter how hard I tried, I could not line up my bat with a ball or throw a basketball into a hoop. No matter how much I improved, my running speed plateaued and refused to climb any further. I could not reach the standards being set for me.
So what does that have to do with the issue at hand? Well, regardless of whether I do or not, I feel like I should have some real competence in the areas that my husband is developing in. I should be good at them, and I should keep up with him, and I should be the best at everything ever. Because that will make me valuable.