Courage To Be Unapologetically You

SLImage.JPG

I was the most judgmental of others when I was literally dying inside - deep in the midst of my battle with an eating disorder and depression.  The perfectionist armor was so thick, I didn't even know who I was... 

The timing made no sense to me at the time... I had just won an Olympic Gold Medal.  And. I was so unprepared for the transition that followed... 

Dreaming BIG - my comfort zone. 
Chasing down a goal - I knew how to do that.
Believing I was capable - with confidence. 
Doing. Sacrificing. Getting it done. 100%.
Stepping into what I had accomplished and feeling worthy of it...
Was a totally different story. 

A new title. Same person. So.many.expectations.  At least, that's the story I told myself. 

How do I act? They might think you're bragging... How do I dress? You don't look like an Olympian... How should I sign this autograph? What should I say? What will they think? 

Be YOU. Unapologetically YOU. 

If I could go back to my teenage self, that is what I would whisper in her ear. 

It took me 16 years to unpack my Olympic boxes and to put on my ring. I am there now. Wholeheartedly embracing all of it.  Because all of it is part of my story. 

Shedding the shield of perfectionism is a daily choice.  Doing so means showing up as my authentic self – not who I think I need/should be – being who I am.   To be real. To be honest. To let my true self be seen.  It’s a daunting task for someone who’s spent her whole life buried under the heavy armor – often caring more about what others thought of her, than what she thought of herself.  

Shedding the shield meant showing up. It meant embracing imperfection – in all its gray glory.  It meant understanding the difference between healthy striving (self-focused) and perfectionism (other-focused).  It meant understanding that perfectionism does not drive success – it almost always gets in the way of it.  

It meant learning to lead with compassion and grace – and extending both to others.  It meant wholeheartedly believing that we are all doing the best we can.  Now, when I see judgment I feel compassion, knowing it most likely stems from a place of pain. 

It takes courage to show up and be seen.  To choose who you let into the arena with you – who’s advice and constructive feedback you will let in.  And it is liberating.  And opens the door to the deepest level of joy.