Day 440: The Dark Side of Success

I recently watched a Netflix documentary called Cheer. I can recommend it. It follows the best junior college cheer leading team in USA – the Navarro College Cheer. The team members range in age from 16 to 18 and are doing their first or second year at the college – and what takes up most of their time is their training. They put in many, many hours of practice to be able to complete their gymnastic and acrobatic routines. It is athletics on a high level and several times it is explained that the career of a cheerleader is over at the age of 19, because by that time the body is worn out.

The one thing that struck me was how everyone seemed to be possessed with the want to win – to such an extent that they would go to any lengths to secure their medal. And it is interesting to see how the sport has evolved and gotten more and more extreme, where teams have constantly pushed the boundaries forward. Throughout the documentary several cheerleaders complains about aches and exhaustion. And many mentally break down because of the pressure that is induced. Still, everyone accepts this as normal, and continues – because somehow they are convinced that winning will make up for it all.

It is fascinating to see how much mental and physical pain the team and their coaches go through. Anxiety, fear, stress, conflicts, anger, irritation, blame, jealousy, day out and day in, for a year – all because of the hope to win one competition at the end of the semester. And – SPOILERS – the team does win their title in the end. But was it worth it? Everyone seems to think so, when they run out of the stadium to celebrate, drunk on feelings, feeling like they are floating – because they can call themselves CHAMPIONS.

This behavior is normal – in adults. Kids, they do not do this and neither does animals. And I think it is because they are much more present in this moment that any pain and discomfort that they experience HERE will be prioritized and solved immediately. They will not remain in the pain and the struggle for several months only to fulfill a vision in their mind – that kind of mind functionality does not exist within them. However, in us adults, it does. And because of that we are able to plague and harm ourselves in our drive for success and victory – completely oblivious to the damage we are causing.

Competition, winning, success – conditions we have come to value so highly, but why really? These things are so cold, singular, and needs separation to work. There must be a loser, there most be a failure, for someone to be the star. Is it possibly the drama and energy within it that we have come to desire, or have we never asked ourselves whether this is what we want to pursue in life? What about equality, family, support and togetherness? Working together instead of working against one another. Perhaps we are not ready to see yet the damage that our constant drive for more is creating. We are still zoned out. Though, we have a world around is that is trying to show us something is wrong. Mentally damaged children and a nature that is collapsing. Why is it that we value our capitalistic lifestyle more than giving EVERYONE what they need to live a good life. It is beyond my understanding and frustrating – because I see that we could create it.

When I was younger I played many sports and I really, really enjoyed them. Unfortunately, the coaches were possessed with the desire to win – and eventually – all joy was sucked out from the game and all that became relevant was the price. This is something we as adults have to change – we cannot allow ourselves to suck the life out of everything just because we desire success. Children should be shown an example of what it means to truly express and enjoy life unconditionally – to enjoy sports unconditionally – to enjoy what is here without dreaming about the future and something more. That is our real challenge. Winning is easy – but living – that is something we have yet to accomplish.


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