Martha Randolph Carr Martha Randolph Carr, 12/4/2008 [Archive]

Martha's Big Adventure - Thank You Dr Robin

Martha's Big Adventure -- Thank you, Dr. Robin

By Martha Randolph Carr

I have worn myself out, at last. Basing self-esteem on a rock bed of competition is exhausting. No matter how many wins get racked up, there can always be another contest so it's never over. Happiness becomes very elusive and dependent on the win column, which is subjective anyway. What constitutes a win can vary way too much. It might take envy from others or at least your mother's approval.

Repeat a behavior enough times and it can also become possible to think the little contests are normal behavior and not something you set up for yourself a long, long time ago. That can make it hard to reach step one of change, which is awareness.

Old coping skills that no longer serve are the worst because they fill every nook and cranny like foam insulation but have been around so long it can take a lot to reach awareness. So, I did something a little out of character and out of frustration and phoned an advice show for a minute of perspective.

Dr. Robin Smith has a popular call-in show on the Oprah & Friends radio network. I was motivated by frustration but also a teensy bit of hoping for a wave of a magic wand. Anything and anyone associated with Oprah has an air of the possible-in-the-face-of-reason quality.

Imagine my surprise when it worked. Dr. Robin listened to me sputter out a quick explanation about feeling like I wasn't competing very well at the fancy functions that success can often bring.

At a recent gala at Tavern on the Green, the other guests looked like they'd been worked on from head to toe and then had a garment sewed around them. I looked like there's a babysitter waiting at home and I'm good at hunting out a bargain. I was so uncomfortable that I glued myself to my seat and waited for others to sit down next to me. My own win column was bringing me a feeling of dread.

Dr. Robin's advice was to stop competing and acknowledge my worth for myself, instead. Make the leap and stop looking for a payoff. A competition, after all, requires a reward but if there's no need for everything to mean something then the contest ends.

Just be there in the moment and enjoy the beautiful colored glass chandeliers, the great food and the stimulating conversations. The moment is all there is going to be anyway.

Plus, it's impossible to start from anywhere but where you're standing right now. Setting up rules that say you have to first be someone different is a nice way of never starting at all and feeling powerless. It leaves out gratitude all together.

So, thank you Dr. Robin, I'll take it from here, and a big thank you as well to Ann Kreager, a reader from Duluth, MN who answered my call for ideas about how to celebrate with what we have.

Ann writes, 'When my daughter was eight, she wanted a Barbie-themed birthday party -- all the 'stuff' from Hallmark, the Barbie paper tablecloth, napkins, plates, cups, balloons, etc. I was dead broke that week; no way could I spend another $30 at the Hallmark store.

'I assured her the party would be wonderful and set up the table with my mother's Pickard china, crystal stemmed glasses, cloth napkins, Quaker lace tablecloth and the hotdogs and Kool-Aid were served like a dinner party.The 10 little girls were enthralled, exclaiming, 'look at Shelley's dishes!' They were quiet and polite and not one drop was spilled. My eight year old is now 38, we still talk about that party.'

Keep sending in those great ideas to and I'll keep sharing them. Together, we can all learn to stop competing and celebrate how much there is in us and in America that already works well. More adventures to follow.

Martha Randolph Carr's latest book, A Place to Call Home, a memoir about the reemergence of U.S. orphanages is available wherever books are sold. If you'd like Martha to come and speak to your group visit: Martha's Big Adventure coming soon to World Talk Radio and Voice America. Email Martha at: or visit

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