“Good enough” is never enough in sport. Complacency is like death. This mentality keeps you driven, keeps you hungry, and keeps you performing. At the same time, it is important to remember that you as a person are enough.
It is important to separate the person from what he or she does. I find this hard to do at times. I have measured my worth based on my performance. Looking back at my journey with the perspective I have today, I can see that I am so much more than the athlete who participated in two Olympic Games.
If I had gone to two Olympics, then the next athlete had gone to three. If I won one medal, then the next athlete won two, or even six! Records are being constantly set and broken. Hardcore-ness is obtained and then some other crazy specimen of sport comes along and shatters expectations and sets the bar even higher. Very few records and accomplishments sit unchallenged for long.
It is humbling to know that there is always someone achieving more. This can also breed a culture and a way of thinking that believes nothing is ever worthy of being sufficient. Mostly I realize that my achievements in sport were more than sufficient, but when I am being hard on myself, I don’t think that way. I can tell by things other athletes have said to me that they don’t feel that way about themselves either. I hear things like, “Well, my sports career wasn’t as big as yours” or “I never got to the level you did.” Regardless of our achievements, sport teaches us all similar lessons that we can speak to universally. Let’s think of ourselves as athletes as we would think of our own child. If it were my child who brought home a silver medal and did what I did, I would be endlessly proud. Why am I not as gentle and proud of myself as I would be with my child (who doesn’t even exist yet)?
When your internal voice starts to gang up on you, turn it around. Ask yourself how would you talk to a younger version of yourself. Would you tell her she is beautiful and deserves unconditional love and support despite her flaws, or would you belittle her and break her down for every little nit-picky thing you can find? The answer seems obvious when I think about it, but it’s not as easy when my internal critic is in charge.
For instance, do you think you are beautiful? That is a hard question for me to answer. I have never thought of myself as beautiful. I have moments when I feel self-confident that I am attractive, but I have other times when I feel hideous. A bad image at a horrible angle can quickly turn into evidence that I am utterly unsightly. Why do I focus on what’s outside of myself to answer this question? We live in a visual world filled with access to all sorts of images. Current day cameras and photographic software used to enhance images unfortunately alter what we see and can make us feel less adequate in comparisons to others. What I have learned through my experiences is that things are not as they appear. From the outside, my life looks a certain way. I have great photos on my Instagram and a list of achievements that are impressive, but I don’t feel inside what you might expect if you reviewed my Instagram account. I have struggled with self-esteem since I was a young girl; the struggle was more intense in my school years. Retiring from rowing brought back much insecurity to the forefront of my daily life.
There was never a time I can recall when I felt more empowered and confident than I did when I was rowing. It became a great arena in which I could push myself and build confidence. I found strength in belonging to a group of like-minded women. We were like-minded, as well as being alike in body type and skill set. Outside the rowing world, I am always one of the tallest women around, which has always made me feel mammoth. Instead of appreciating what has become a gift, I loathed it. In rowing, I was one of many tall women and sometimes even the shortest.
Being five foot ten made me short, relatively speaking, in a pool of athletes. I remember standing tall, even wanting to be taller! This was such an astonishing shift in mindset and it came simply from being around others like me. I no longer felt as though I stood out; I didn’t feel insecure about my height: I owned it.
The camaraderie and understanding I received from my teammates gave me strength. The safe place I found in the world of rowing allowed me to explore who I am and who I want to be. Being empowered and confident, I began to see what I was truly capable of.
Leaving rowing and re-entering a world where I am once again the tallest female, sometimes the tallest person in the room, brings back many a demon for me. Now I have the armor of a silver medal and a purpose for which I use this height, but it doesn’t mean that my feelings of wanting to hide away from standing out have disappeared.
Written by Krista Guloien
This excerpt is from the new book entitled “Beyond The Finish Line” by 2012 Olympic Silver Medalist Krista Guloien. In it, Krista takes us from the elation of winning an Olympic Medal to the roller coaster ride of transition to life after sport. But this is not just a book about sport. It’s about a women’s journey to discover who she is, what is most important in her life and how she can contribute.
It can be purchased here: Amazon and Amazon(CA)