Even though I’ve been running for as long as I can remember, the sport of gymnastics was actually my first love.
It all began when I sat feet from the television, glued to coverage of the 1996 Olympic gymnastics competition. Immediately after the crowing of the bronze, silver and gold, I began begging my mom to enroll me in local gymnastic classes. I was determined to become a star gymnast — I even wished for it on every penny or shooting star.
However, that determination only got me so far. That’s because, there was one, more important thing that held me back from being successful: I didn’t have the confidence.
I was too scared in my abilities to perform the flips. I was too worried about how my stunts would score. I was too nervous about not being promoted to the next level of competition.
Eventually, that lack of self-confidence got the best of me and I gave up my gymnastics dreams.
What is saddest to me, as I look back on that decision, isn’t that I never got to win my Olympic gold in gymnastics. Rather, it just strikes me as sad that I didn’t have self-confidence even as a young girl.
The funny thing is that, to most people who knew me as a kid, this story may not make sense — I appeared to be an active, outgoing and confident little girl…
Yet, somewhere inside me, the seeds of self-doubt were already growing — and, unfortunately, it got worse before it got better.
Throughout middle school, it seemed normal to compare myself with other girls. I remember sitting in classes envying one girl’s hair, another girl’s makeup and another girl’s life. In contrast, I just didn’t seem good enough.
During high school, my self-confidence continued to decline, even though I was commended for my academics and athletics. There was always someone better.
As cliché as it is, it wasn’t until I hit rock bottom in terms of my self-confidence that I finally began to turn around. It was my sophomore year of college and I was super skinny, academically successful and overwhelmingly sad.
At that point, I realized that I could no longer depend on friends, sports or academics to boost my confidence. The only way that I can feel confident about myself is to feel comfortable with myself.
The point is that, I’ve learned that self-confidence doesn’t come easy — at least to me. But, rather than continuing to slip down a road of self-deprecation, I do have the ability to reverse my internal dialogue.
I still have that occasional inner voice that says, “You aren’t that fill-in-the-blank…”
Except, now, I counter that voice by saying, “You are YOU and that is all that matters.”
So, I may be 20, but it’s better late than never when it comes to self-confidence — although I’m not holding my breat about making it to the Olympics.
Question: How do you turn around critical thoughts about yourself?