I’m a wee bit obsessive about games and hold myself to a high standard. Fear of failure is a real affliction, and I’m not sure I have that, but I do dread losing at anything, and it seems to have gotten worse since I retired. Not getting those wins at work, so I work hard at my play time just to see if I measure up.
Seriously, it’s a curse. If I wake up in the middle of the night, I look at the light outside to see if I can guess what time it is. And yes, I feel good when I get it right.
I especially dread playing bad golf. More so since I retired. When I was working, I could explain it away by saying I don’t get to play enough. That excuse doesn’t fly anymore.
It’s not that I mind other people playing better or winning. But I’m mad at myself for not being as good and just want to go off alone to sulk. On the bright side, maybe I’m finally starting to reverse the trend. Last week our women’s league played on a muddy course saturated by rains, and it was tough. My partners and I agreed ahead of time we would laugh at bad shots.
Let’s just say we laughed a lot. I posted one of my worst scores since I learned to play the game more than 25 years ago. When we got to the parking lot, one of the women said, let’s have a drink for making it through that! She had a little flask and plastic glasses and poured us each a tiny shot of butterscotch liquor (which is delicious). We drank it right there by our cars.
Then I joined the group inside rather than exiting the scene with my head hung low, and we had a pretty good time laughing about how horribly we played. I have to say it was a much better way to end a bad round than my usual pity-fest.
The very next morning, as I was playing Wordle in bed, I lost a game and broke my 159-day streak. I thought I’d be devastated, but I surprised myself. I actually felt relieved. Perhaps the universe was sending me a message. Play for fun – not everything has to be a test.
I wouldn’t say I have a pathological diagnosis, and you probably don’t either, but for some of us, the fear of failure can be greater than the excitement of winning. And it holds us back.
Retirement is as good a time as any to try to recover at least a smidgeon of that wild abandon we had before life knocked us around. However, I don’t want it all back, because I seriously did some dumb shit when I wasn’t scared of anything.
After seeing the upside of losing, I feel kind of free. More relaxed. I’ve always dreaded a complete collapse of my golf game, and it happened. It wasn’t all that bad. The experience helped me understand it’s one thing to fear losing. The trick is to shrug it off and work harder at losing the fear.
Donna Pekar is an aging badass (for real) who lives in California and writes Retirement Confidential.