When Words Become Weapons

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These are the kinds of messages that, when seen through the lens of perfectionism, can be so dangerous.

The 18 year old me believed there were no exceptions to this rule. Ever. 

Everything was earned, even love.

And so, I achieved. All.the.things.

All A’s. 

Academic awards.

Top of my class.

Full scholarship. 

An Olympic gold medal. 

Pedal pressed. Always chasing the next thing. 

Never stopping to appreciate what I had accomplished; only focused on my shortcomings. 

It’s an intense way to live.

What I know now:

The full-throttle, at-all-costs, rest-is-weakness, prove-it, no-pain-no-gain mentality is not a prerequisite to achievement. Not even close. 

And comes with a dangerously high cost.

For me, that meant Depression. An eating disorder. Injury. Suicidal ideation. 

Because, when your identity is wrapped up in your performance, the cost of not achieving is so high. The judgement so thick.

There is no room for falling short - because, falling short becomes I am not enough.

Because, when you believe that love and belonging are something to be earned, it’s  a relentless pursuit, exhausting and lonely. Because, it doesn’t come from out there.

There is no room for falling short - because, falling short becomes I am unworthy of love.

I see it now.

So when I was given this bracelet two years ago, by a complete stranger passing by, I paused to reflect on how far I’ve come. A little nod from the Universe.

We are not our successes.

We are not our failures.

We are not our thoughts.

We are not our mental illness.

We are not our emotions.

We are not our poor choices.

We are not our inner critic.

We are the ones underneath, experiencing.

There is nothing ‘wrong’ with chasing down dreams. In fact, I’m still a dream chaser and daring to dream is a skill set I help my clients cultivate. I believe our inner magic is revealed when we follow our dreams.

Achievement still matters to me, too. The difference is that it no longer DEFINES me. My identity is no longer hinged to the outcome, which actually frees me up to achieve AND feel fulfilled along the way. The distinction allows me to hear feedback about my actions without spiraling into shame (I am bad ), opening up space for me to own what’s mine, take in critical feedback and GROW.

What I know now:

Titles. Rank. GPA. Medals. Degrees. Awards. Performance. And. Achievement. A spot on the Olympic team. Those are earned, not given. 

Love. Worthiness. Our enoughness. Those are given, not earned.

There’s a critical and nuanced difference. And that difference can impact the way we view ourselves, each other - and the world.  

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My 1:1 High-Performance Coaching + 1:1 Wholehearted Coaching offerings can be found over here. To learn more about the Rise Free Academy, head over here. If you aren’t sure which would be a better fit and/or you want to connect to see if we’d be a good fit, head over here to set up a free, 30 minute strategy call.


Samantha Arsenault Livingstone is an Olympic Gold Medalist, high-performance coach and consultant, transformational speaker, educator and entrepreneur. She is the founder of Livingstone High Performance, LLC. and the Rise Free Academy - inspiring, empowering and equipping athletes, coaches and women who lead with the skills they need to cultivate high-performance - to achieve AND feel fulfilled along the way. 

In addition to private and group coaching, Samantha consults with teams and organizations on athlete wellness, Mindful Sport Performance Enhancement (MSPE), leadership, courage building, rising skills and creating high-performance environments. 

A mama of heart warrior and mama of twins, Samantha and her husband, Rob, live in the Berkshires with their four girls. To learn more about her offerings, go over to www.samanthalivingstone.com