Years ago I played competitive tennis at the junior level. I had to practise for hours and there was intense competition to get sponsored coaching and even sponsored tennis wear and racquets. I remember the thrill of getting a letter from Dunlop and another from Fred Perry giving me a deal on various items – it was a way of their logo getting out there on the courts albeit in rather a minor way on the junior tennis circuit. But then the pressure began as to keep the sponsorship you needed the results. To get to play for the county team you needed the results and to get entry to what was then Junior Wimbledon a national and not then an international competition you needed to win against what then seemed big names. In other words the pressure never eased off. You were always trying to prove yourself better than others. Competition was everything and it was cut throat stuff. Needless to say I never moved out of the Junior game into the big league – my heart wasn’t in it.
The difficulty is that that pressure to perform permeates everything and not just ‘harmless’ games of tennis. And I’m not sure it is so harmless … after all the other then becomes the enemy whatever the context. The worry of the pressure leads to a lack of authenticity and integrity and coming out on top seems the only way forward. Here I think is part of the development of the false self. And all this has to be dismantled and starts to become dismantled and to be seen for the illusion it all is and that can happen both in psychotherapy and in meditation. Bit by bit the pressure to perform can lessen and then there’s something a bit more real left.