The next match – well, let’s just say oh, how the tables turn… I faced Feng Tianwei (WR #9) of Singapore in Battle Round 2 – a rematch of our meeting at the Women’s World Cup, just less than a few weeks ago. I had prevailed in that encounter, only narrowly escaping a comeback. But then, I heard it.
“Wow, you literally got the best draw you could’ve gotten.” Words that I tried to filter mindlessly through one ear and out of the other, but still somehow managed to crawl and lodge their way into my brain. Yes, it’s true. I had won in the last match, but this was still Feng Tianwei we’re talking about. Former World Champion, Olympic Bronze medalist etc, etc. The list goes on…
I’d have to be irrational to believe that I could easily take this match. Yet somehow, my relentless old friend – the insecurity of not being enough – resurfaced, nipping at my thoughts and forcing me to doubt my abilities. I didn’t want to seem like a fluke or a one-trick pony – just being able to perform well in one tournament. The duality of wanting, even expecting, to win again just to prove myself to the world, while also being terrified of failure, greatly clouded my approach to the match.
It showed. Feng Tianwei rocketed out to a 9-3 lead in the first game. It was pretty much an accurate foreshadowing of the rest of the match. She entirely took control of the pace and the rhythm, forcing me far back from the table – away from my comfort zone. I felt as though I was desperately clawing for air, just for a moment to breathe, to catch up. At one point, I even thought, “this is humiliating.” And, just like that, the entire match was over before I had even processed what was happening. 3 nil.
That’s how fast it can happen. When you compete with unrealistic expectation, with the fear of losing, and with a mindset worrying about what others may think, the nerves can just as easily take control. That’s not to say you shouldn’t have goals or the confidence that you can win, but there is a fine line between belief and expectation.