When I was in high school I took a data management class that involved a large culminating project. For my project, I decided to find the typical characteristics of a world class female triple jumper. I found the athletic profiles of the females who have the top 100 triple jumps of all time. In the end, I found that the average world class female triple jumper is 29 years old, 138 pounds, and 5 foot ten. At first I thought nothing of these results. This was around the time that I started to compete internationally. At these meets I began to notice very quickly that I’m usually one of the smaller competitors. I would look at all my much bigger opponents and think back to the results of my project. I started to think, “Wow, I am way too small!”. Very quickly I became obsessed with comparing myself to others. The IAAF website only fuelled this habit of mine because it lists the progression of world class track and field athletes. I began to look up athletes I admire and think, “oh man, she was jumping half a meter further than me when she was my age! Not only that but she’s 4 inches taller! How will I ever get to where she is? We are so different.”
We all do this – it’s human nature. I am studying health promotion in school and I have learned that a person is more likely to have self-efficacy (believe that they are capable of succeeding at something in particular) if someone who they perceive as similar to themself has done it before. For example, if your friend quit smoking and you think that you are very similar to them, you are likely to in turn have increased belief in your own ability to quit smoking. This explains why I desperately would try to find ways in which I am similar to the all-time greats of triple jump. I hoped that by being similar to these amazing athletes, it made it more likely that I will end up where they are, and where I want to be – the world stage. I simply wanted to feel like I was the right fit for the part of ‘world class triple jumper’.
It wasn’t until last year that I realized how crazy it is for me to think I need to have all the same characteristics of the greats that came before me. I was in an elevator and I overheard a female around my age talking to her friend. “I need to be dating my future husband for at least 3 years before we get married – then I want to wait a year or two after marriage before children – I just feel like I’m running out of time! So many of my friends are married with jobs and I’m single and still in school. I just feel like I’m not following the plan!”. The plan? I couldn’t help but smile to myself as I heard this girl. I wanted to be like, “Listen lady, not everyone is the same! There is more than one way to live a life. Don’t live according to what you think ‘typical’!” It very quickly hit me after that – I am a big fat hypocrite. Here I am stressing about being too short, too scrawny, not jumping far enough for my age, but the only reason I was feeling this way is because I was comparing myself to others.
The fact is, there is more than 1 road that leads to where you want to be. Don’t get caught up in comparing yourself to others because you’re not others – you are you! There is no select way that you have to be or live in order to achieve what you want. When you compare yourself to others, it makes you unhappy with things you would have otherwise been happy with. How would I of ever had the thought ‘I’m too small’ without someone to pit (no jumpers pun intended) myself up against? If you were supposed to be any other way, you would be!
Through everything, the most important thing is that you have an unwavering belief that you are going to end up where you want to be, and I mean an absolutely chilling confidence. With this belief, you will eventually find a way to where you want to be no matter what. The road you take doesn’t matter. Nor does the make of the car, the number of pit stops along the way, etc. All that matters is that you firmly believe that you will eventually get to that place you’ve been dreaming of.
If only there was a measureable statistic for belief, desire, passion or tenacity. Perhaps then would I have found a way that I fit the common characteristics of a world class triple jumper – this I know for sure.
You’re writing your own road map – take pride in that!