It spoils a fair number of social activities I would otherwise enjoy, because I like to do things for fun instead of, I dunno, sit and drink and stare at the wall or whatever the alternative is. The problem is not so much that I like doing things, but that I don't like pushing myself in my free time. I haven't gone rock-climbing in nearly a month because I'm sick of the guy at the check-in desk bugging me about how I should "step up my game" and buy my own gear instead of renting. I haven't gone biking except by myself in years because I'm tired of getting hassled for not wanting to ride the rim of Instant Death Gorge or some stupid shit like that. I've made it a rule never to play against my friends in videogames of any sort, because I don't want to feel pressured to "beat them" (and moreover I don't want to lose), which is anathema to what I think friends should do. Shit, I even have a couple of friends that are competitive about cooking and listening to music. "Come on dude, you're not really going to use pre-ground beef in your hamburgers, are you? I stopped doing that as soon as I could afford a meat grinder. It's so much fresher that way." Yes, I fucking am. Go eat at your own house if you don't like it. "Dude, we already listened to that album, put something new on. I have this Sonic Youth album where they play the guitar with a screwdriver." I don't give a shit, I like this one. I'm relaxing. It's ridiculous, at least in my mind. Now, I have to be fair and say that I deal with "friendly competition" a lot better when I know I have the upper hand, like when I'm playing pool, but it still bugs me. No, I do not need to practice my bank shots; stop lecturing me on how to do them properly, and hit the fucking cue ball. Oh, and, you're losing anyway, so why are you telling me how to play? I don't *need* to be perfect, or extreme, or constantly improving. This meal does not need to be better than the last, and I don't need to listen to music that challenges my understanding of the human experience. What I *need* is to enjoy what I enjoy and not get my ass busted for being mediocre at things that don't actually matter in the big scheme of things. Hell, there are even people who get on my case about being a lightweight drinker, but at least that one is ridiculous enough that I don't take it seriously. I like it that way, because it costs less to get drunk. But anyway... Like a lot of problems I have, I can trace it back to my mother. (sorry mom.) One of my earliest memories is of sitting in my house on Long Island, learning how to write letters. The method was: I would write the same letter over and over again, on the top and bottom halves of each line on a sheet of tablet paper (i.e. lined paper with huge spacing for little kids), until I filled up the sheet, and each time I wrote the letter my mother would point out what I did wrong and how to do it better. I know this happened for every letter of the alphabet, uppercase and lowercase, but for whatever reason the only one I clearly remember is the lowercase letter 'e'. I was having trouble with the transition from the straight line in the middle to the curved line around the outside, and I was catching constant shit for it. I was crying, of course, but that didn't make any difference, it just pissed her off more. I remember pleading with her to let me write uppercase 'E's instead, because those were easier. She let me write one and it was a huge relief. (interesting side note; to this day my handwriting is all uppercase.) Now, obviously that's a single memory, and there are plenty of others, but it's a good example of just how much I despise the notion of constant improvement -- and by extension, the "friendly competition" that people use as a way to improve their skills. It might also be part of the explanation as to why I don't like it, but I can't be sure. All I know is that when people tell me "you need to step up your game" or "you should try something harder" or "you should practice such-and-so", it makes me irrationally angry, as was hinted at in the first paragraph. Anyway, the core of the issue as it relates to the here-and-now is that I'm content to be exactly as good at recreational activities as I want to be -- and for the most part it is entirely within my abilities to reach that skill level -- but I don't want to feel like I ought to be better at them than I want to be. I hate that feeling. It's so unpleasant that I simply avoid anything that people might feel compelled to evaluate in terms of skill and proficiency. I'm not sure how to deal with that, not least because it seems like I can't possibly avoid it -- everyone wants to compete, and I don't.