We’re all guilty of having some negativity in our lives. And I really hate how easy it is to fall into this trap. Ever noticed that if you hang out around someone who lives and breathes a negative lifestyle that all too soon you begin to be drawn into that same negativity yourself? Bravo if you haven’t. Because whew, you have a lot of self control. Ever had someone speak something negative about you? At first you might be mad about it, but if it’s said often enough, you then slowly start to believe those words spoken over you. And as you start to believe it, you start to become it. Not because that’s who you are, but because that’s who you believe you are.
Why is it so easy to go down the path of negativity? And why is that path so easy to stay on? First of all, like I said before, the people around you have a MASSIVE impact on you. That’s just the way humans are. We start to become more like the people we’re around. And if those people are negative people, well hello negativity. Second of all, I think being negative is so easy for us because we think that if we believe the worst, then maybe we won’t disappoint ourselves. It’s like a protection mechanism. If my hopes are too high, then I could disappoint myself, my parents, my coaches, etc. But if I set the bar really low for myself, there’s no disappointment.
So how do you escape the negativity that swarms you? What do you do when your teammates start down that path of negativity and it seems so easy to follow suit? What do you do when your coach tells you you’re not good enough, or that you’re never going to be the level you’re working so hard to be able to compete? Or even worse, they tell you they’re disappointed in you?
Let me stop for just a second and say that even as I write these words, it breaks my heart knowing that some of the words I just wrote aren’t just examples of negative words. For many of you, those words are a reality. And they hurt. They sting. They make you feel worthless. And I want you to know that I hurt for you. I’m here to stand with you and fight against those words. I’m here to tell you that no matter what negative words have been spoken over you, YOU ARE LOVED and YOU ARE WORTH IT. People are flawed. They say hurtful things. Their words cut you to the core. And I am so sorry. I am so sorry you had to stand there and take those words in. I am so sorry that you’ve had to endure the pain and heartache that comes from feeling devalued and never enough. My hope and prayer is that as you read this, your heart heals and the wounds from those painful words slowly begin to disappear. Because those words are not who you are. You are so much more than a gymnast. You are a beautiful young woman who has potential beyond her dreams. And I pray that your eyes are opened to the hope and joy that comes from becoming someone who pursues positivity.
- Remember who you do this for.
Do you only do gymnastics to please your parents? Do you train hours upon hours just to please your coach? Or do you do gymnastics because YOU love the sport? Do you love the thrill of getting a new skill? Do you love the feeling of conquering a fear? Do you come alive when you compete your favorite event? Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely some bad days in the gym! But if you’re doing the sport of gymnastics for anyone but yourself, I would say some reevaluation needs to take place. Let me take a moment to speak to those of you who are in this difficult spot. My prayer for you is that you become bold enough to search your heart for the things YOU are passionate about. Not your parents. Not your coach. YOU. I hope you take up courage to pursue the passions and gifts that are inside of you. And know that it’s okay if it’s not gymnastics. Like I said before, you are so much more than a gymnast. And that’s a beautiful thing.
Now, if you’re someone who really does gymnastics for YOU because you love what it’s all about, awesome! You are in a really great place! Now let’s get back to overcoming that negativity. I was one of those people who LOVED gymnastics. Like I said before, there were most definitely some rough days that made me want to go crawl in a hole, but I really loved gymnastics. But so often in the gym, I remember getting drawn into negative conversations I shouldn’t have been having, getting discouraged because my coach was upset with me, or feeling defeated because my teammates belittled me. And I was too shy to do anything about it. I would go home and cry as my mom hugged me.
I wanted to please my coaches. I wanted them to be proud of me. And when I felt like they weren’t, it devastated me. I know you know the feeling. In those moments, if I had remembered why I did gymnastics and who I was doing it for, I think it would have changed things. I was so concerned with pleasing the people around me, the joy of gymnastics often was lost.
Don’t let that happen to you! Remember why you love this sport! Remember why you got out of bed early on a Saturday morning to go to practice even when you really just wanted to stay in bed. Remember what drives you to do what you do. Stop focusing on pleasing everyone else. Everyone has bad days, even coaches. And sometimes they say things they wish they could take back. Unfortunately, there are some coaches that find their identity in being a coach and therefore project that onto your success as their gymnast. But that’s their problem. Not yours. If you really love this sport, remember that this is YOUR passion and joy. And don’t let negativity start to slowly steal that away from you.
- Fight back.
Now, when I say fight back, I don’t mean start a knock down drag out fight with your teammates or coaches when they’re negative. The fight I’m talking about is more mental. Sometimes it takes some bravery. And let me just say, this isn’t an easy one. It takes some trial and error and LOTS of practice. Give yourself some grace as you give this one a try. When your teammates start to go down that road, it’s okay to say, “Hey guys, let’s try to be more positive.” And it’s even okay to walk away if they’re not ready to start this process of positivity themselves. You can still love them and respect them, but you don’t have to be a part of that.
Now, negative coaches are a little trickier. I believe in respecting your authority, no matter what. But respecting them doesn’t always mean agreeing with them. Maybe you didn’t do a skill you needed to do today, and all of a sudden your coach tells you that you’ll never be ready to compete that season. That you’ll never make the changes you need to make to get better. You don’t have to say anything. In fact, it’s probably better not to. But that’s when you have to remind yourself of what’s true. “I CAN do this skill. I WILL make the corrections and changes necessary to get better. Just because I didn’t do it today doesn’t mean I can’t tomorrow. I’ve got this.” Shake it off and move on.
Respect your coach and remember that you are strong. Not just from all that conditioning, but mentally, too. You’re stronger than those negative words. That’s not who you are. You may have made a mistake that day, but that doesn’t define you. Yeah, your coach may have gotten frustrated, but it’ll be okay. If you gave it your all, then that’s all you can do. And if not, maybe apologize and do your best tomorrow. But ultimately, not doing that skill or whatever happened to frustrate your coach does not define you. Remember gymnastics is a part, and maybe a big part, of your life. It’s not your whole life.
Relax?! What!? This is gymnastics! Yeah, I know. And it’s something I wish I had learned when I was gymnast way back when. I allowed myself to get worked up over the smallest things (and still do sometimes) to the point I was so emotionally drained that I had nothing left to give. That’s not healthy! And I feel like it’s something we’re so prone to do as gymnasts because we do a sport where the goal is perfection. But what I realized as I got older is that REAL perfection does not exist. Gymnasts will ALWAYS fight for perfection. Which means they’ll always come up short. And yeah, there may be some college gymnasts who get a 10.0, but the majority of us get below that perfect ten.
Now don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with working to become the best gymnast you can be by making your skills the most perfect they can be. That’s the sport of gymnastics. But when that perfection pursuit begins to destroy the love you have for this sport, that’s when you have to take a step back and relax a little. You have to find balance. Because it’s when that balance is lost that mental chaos ensues and negativity becomes the only voice in your head.
I will say this again: You are not defined by being a gymnast. When you allow yourself to be defined by your success or perfection in gymnastics or by what your teammates or coaches say about you, negativity will be right there to follow. It will always remind you of how you’re not perfect and because of that you’ll never get there and you’ll always struggle with that skill and blah de blah de BLAH. YUCK! Let me just go ahead and tell you… You aren’t perfect. AND THAT’S OKAY. I’m certainly not. Never have been, never will be. And neither will anyone else. You are loved just the way you are. You are beautiful even in your imperfections. And don’t let negativity tell you otherwise.