Would I be as competitive and a perfectionist had I not been born deaf? I don’t know. Growing up, sports was my thing. I loved playing team sports. I tried golf and tennis lessons, but gravitated toward teams. Thinking about that, you’d think I’d prefer individual sports since you don’t have to worry about communications as much as in team sports.
Anyway, sports can make anyone competitive — not just deafness. But being a deaf person, I constantly wanted to prove that I was as good or better than everyone else. Hence, the perfectionist and competitiveness. This applied to everything I did — grades, sports, and work. While I did well in high school and college, I wonder how much better I could’ve done if I could hear and not miss anything the professor said or fellow students in group discussions.
Competitiveness got me in trouble and I learned from it. After losing a softball game, I was mad and not being a good sport. My behavior caused me to lose a spot on a tournament team. I worked to improve my sportsmanship — but sometimes it was hard to keep it inside of me.
After college, I rarely played sports. Life got in the way… work, kids, and other things. So I had get exercise the boring way — treadmill, stepper, or go outside. I channeled my competitive energies into my career. It drive me nuts when people on my team got promoted and I couldn’t reach that or they’d move to another team because of an invitation.
I did something about the lack of promotion. I applied for higher jobs within the company and landed one. Unfortunately, it was a terrible move as the team was falling apart. Would’ve rather stay on the previous team and be a lowly contributor than move to this one. Work was a horrible feeder into my competitiveness. Politics, knowing the right people… things beyond skill can move a person up.
Before I had my second child, I wanted to climb the ladder fast and become a team leader and then manager. That changed when I realized my managers spend most of their time in meetings — many of them in conference calls. It’s a fact that people might not like a deaf person be their superior in a similar manner to a 23-year-old becoming the manager of a team where no one is under 30. So it may not have bode well for me to get into an official leadership role.
Since leaving the corporate world for my own business, the competitiveness in me has subsided … that is, until I finally found a sport to make exercise fun and started tennis. I love it. Thankfully, the lessons learned help me keep a level head in the game. But that doesn’t mean I don’t get a little frustrated or mad. I keep reactions to myself — much easier than in the past.


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  1. Great article, I know exactly what you mean! I’d forgotten about this until you brought it up.
    When I was 11 or 12 years old I was into Shotokan karate for a while. When I earned my purple belt, my instructor called me into his office. I thought he was going to congratulate me. Instead, said “Mark, you’re doing great… but you’ve got to stop trying to be perfect at everything.” He saw that my desire to be perfect was interfering with my ability to have fun. He was absolutely right – for whatever reason, I always felt I needed to be ten times better than the hearing kids.
    And now… my 8-year-old is going deaf and I recognize a similar intensity. He plays baseball at 125mph and has made two all-star teams already. But it took a long talk on what it means to have fun and be a good teammate before you could see him really start to relax and enjoy the game.
    There’s a TV commercial where two Philadelphia Phillies (Shane Victorino and Brett Myers) go bananas in the dugout – they mug for the phanavision, play limbo with a baseball bat, and use a couple of bats to play air guitar. After seeing THAT, my son has lightened up considerably on the baseball field. Whew! πŸ™‚

  2. Yeah I have to say im like that in college, once we have a brief I go off the rails to get everything done exactly the way I want and even try to exceed it beyond getting decent sleep!! especially in multi media, its my strongest point, photography and computers and Photoshop ect, yet im glad to say its not in every aspect of college, I can be very lax in other things, I sometimes i feel like my deafness inhibits me in classes so I try to exceed in other aspects, but I dont think I dwell on it too much, but its there alright! I know when to take a back seat, though, I ended up in hospital in first year from an illness brought on by exaustion!! so I kinda learned my lesson a bit!! πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

  3. Mark, you don’t remember all those times you (at the age of 35 and up) smashed a racquetball racquet against the wall/floor/whatever? πŸ™‚
    I too often got into a unsportsmanlike funk as a kid when I f’d up. I’ll admit to smashing a few racquets too. I wonder if this is equally prevalent among deaf kids who interact and socialize primarily with other deaf kids?

    • Meryl on July 27, 2007 at 8:01 am
    • Reply

    Neil, that feeling that comes out of smashing a racquet sounds too familiar and I’ve done a few nasty things with my bat, glove or whatever I had in my hands when I got mad.
    That’s a curious question about deaf kids socializing with other deaf kids — I’d love to know the answer.

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