Flash back to the seventh grade at recess. You’re standing in a circle with your closest friends and one of them turns to you and says, “I was in the bathroom, and I overheard Cindy tell Mindy that you were the reason your team lost the volleyball game in gym class/the purple pants you wore last Tuesday were ugly/you are a real teachers pet in math class/the only reason Steve is dating you is because he’s trying to make Lindy jealous”. You’re shocked – why would Cindy say something so hurtful? Your peers console you in the same way any friend consoles a friend who’s just been dissed, “Well who cares what they think! We think you’re awesome!”.
That was always nice to hear – at least your friends didn’t think your purple pants last Tuesday were ugly, so life’s not all that bad. What I’ve learned over the years is that not even the opinions of your closest friends can help you feel good about yourself if that feeling isn’t coming from within.
Over the years, I’ve had some comments make their way back to me regarding my athletic progress – coaches and athletes who make remarks about my relative lack of improvement distance-wise in the pit. Stuff like that used to destroy me. I was already very self-conscious and hyper-sensitive when it came to my plateaued state, and it embarrassed and ashamed the hell out of me to know it was something other people noticed. “She peaked in high school. She’ll never jump further”. People around me would console me by saying, “Well who cares what they think! We know you’re going to jump further!”. That always helped – at least my teammates and coaches believed in me – but it was only a band-aid solution until the next comment ripped me a part.
I’ve matured a lot in the past year, and I’ve realized that the only reason those comments hurt as much as they did was because I believed them to be true. My years of slowed progress had me convinced I’d never jump any further. Hearing the negative comments from others only provided supporting evidence to the thoughts that already existed in my head. I’m happy to now be at a point where I have enough confidence in my abilities to not let the opinions of others matter to me when it comes to my athletics. Finally, I can clearly see what I’m capable of, and the vision is unshakeable.
It’s easy to get caught up in the way other people see you. Never stop re-evaluating the way that you see yourself – it is through this lens in which the view matters most. People can call you a cat all they want, but if you see yourself as a lion, and you feel yourself to be a lion, then damnit, you’re a lion!