The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Thought You Knew: Competitive Spirit Ignited by Childhood Trauma

4 min read

I think I might be too competitive.

No matter how seemingly inconsequential the contest or how non-existent the prize, if I’ve found a challenge to beat, I can’t stop until I win.

My general apathy towards life often outweighs my need to win because I can usually convince myself of how meaningless everything is. However, when I am overcome with the desire to compete, things get ugly—fast.

In Kindergarten, for example, I had no interest in learning to read until I decided that I had to be the first one in my class to get through all of the levels in our reading books.

I wasn’t a bully, but I did get a lesson on when it’s appropriate to let everyone know you’re smarter than they are (According to Mrs. Bass, the answer is never, but she was obviously a liar).

It’s not my fault, though. I suffered trauma at an early age, and it changed me forever. Like any good 21-year-old girl with no real problems, there is only one person to blame for my issues—my father.

When I was but a naïve four-year-old, full of hope and still unaware of how cruel people can be to the ones they love, I received the board game Pretty Pretty Princess.

I challenged my dad to a friendly match, assuming he would humor me and play along while I collected the different pieces of jewelry I needed to become the pretty, pretty princess.

It was discovered that afternoon that I inherited my father’s arrogance and tendency to shamelessly taunt his opponents. Things got nasty as insults were slung while jewelry was collected.

Tension was high as we neared the end of the game.

In order to win, a player must collect all of the pieces of jewelry in his or her designated color, as well as the Pretty Pretty Princess crown. I had everything except my necklace, but I was positioned to get it on my next turn.

I even had the crown.

My dad spun the wheel. All he needed was the crown—my crown—to win the whole game.

I prayed he’d land on the black ring instead, prohibiting him from winning for as long as it was in his possession.

He landed on a space that granted him permission to steal whatever he wanted from another player in the game.
I was the only other player.

I offered him any of my other jewelry. I accused him of cheating and made him count the spaces again. I begged him to take anything but the plastic gray crown resting atop my brown curls.

He ignored my pleas and reached across the game board.
He took my crown.

Do you know what it’s like to see victory dangling before your eyes, only to have it snatched away by a greedy man prancing around the living room chanting “I’m the Pretty Pretty Princess,” as his four-year-old daughter sobbed uncontrollably?

Do you know what that’s like?

Once the tears dried and the pieces of plastic jewelry I threw in a fit of rage were cleaned up, I realized what an important lesson I’d learned.
If you’re going to play a game, you better be in it to win it.

I shouldn’t have expected my dad to let me win. We live in a harsh world full of people who are dying to steal our crowns and laugh at our failures. I’m just glad I learned this at an early age.

Luckily, at this point in my life, I don’t do anything that calls for such fierce competition, like sports or caring about school. I channel my occasional intensity into drinking games and personal challenges I make for my own amusement.

The only problem is that these instances are becoming more and more frequent.

Almost every week I find a new challenge to present to myself, and I’m pretty sure no one appreciates how heated I get during games that rely solely on luck.

Just to be clear, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a competitive spirit, but when your personal challenges start to drift into “Cruel Intentions” territory and everyone you’re playing the drinking game with has turned against you because you wouldn’t stop heckling them, it might be time to re-evaluate your commitment to the game.

Blame my dad.

If he’d let me be the Pretty Pretty Princess, I probably wouldn’t be such a dick about everything.