Why I Almost Quit the Sport I Loved

 
 

When I was 14 years old, I wanted to quit the sport I loved. And, I already had one foot out the door.

I was purposefully getting kicked out of practice.

I didn't want to quit because it was hard. I wanted to quit because my inner critic got so loud, I couldn't hear the whispers of my inner wisdom.

I'm not afraid of hard shit - in fact, the harder the challenge - the higher I rise. Looking at my parents, I think that's in my DNA.

{ So much noise. }

The comments about my body ignited a shame storm inside of me - comments made by coaches I trusted and teammates I called friends, internalized.  Looking back, I don't believe they were said from a malicious place - but intentional or not, the culture on the pool deck was toxic.  

I just wanted to grow - get faster - have fun - win.  And, to someday be the best in the world.  

Their words sliced through me and served to embolden my inner critic and left wounds that took years to heal - and scars that still remain.  Each comment - joke - laugh - sarcastic remark - added fuel to an already burning fire.

From people I trusted.

I started wondering what was wrong with my body. What was wrong with me?

I started comparing my body to other girls.

Over-analyzing. Criticizing. Comparing. Obsessing.

Believing that there was one 'right' way to be.

Hating. Silently. 

The same body that was moving me through the water at record breaking pace -  catapulting me onto a national stage at 12 years old.

The water was my refuge.  My safe place - a place I felt free from the judgement and pressure and fear of being exposed.

The inner + outer noise got so loud, I almost walked away from the sport I loved.

And. I didn't.

On a regular day in December just after my 15th birthday, my mom asked me if I wanted to swim for a different team. I will never forget the details of that moment and how it made me feel - I remember it so vividly.

Never mind the sacrifice on our family - or how far away the new team was - or how I would balance school on top of the hour-long drive ... She noticed. She could see the disconnect. She could see the struggle.

My mom hates that she had no idea what was going on underneath the surface - both of my parents were so unaware of the culture on the pool deck.

That's the thing with shame. It wants to keep you silent.

Years later and I know that teammates of mine were just as affected. And, there we were - swimming side-by-side - hanging out - eating together - hotel rooms - all of it. The internal critic so damn loud - thinking we were the only ones who felt this way.

Shame cannot survive sharing. Which is exactly why I share with you. There is not a soul on this planet that needs to suffer alone in silence. Not one.

You are never alone.

The words that come out of people's mouths have nothing to do with you - and everything to do with them - especially when it comes to your body.

Keep your short list of people who love you unconditionally - people who lift you up - people who are worthy of giving you feedback - and let go of the rest.

And, I know. It's hard as hell, especially when you're 14. I get it.

I also know that we can do hard shit. And that we includes you.

What happens when the words come from someone who is on your short list?

Things get layered in the world of sport - a world that centers around our physical body.  Coaches are usually on that short list and for good reason - they are trying to help athletes perform at the highest level.  Feedback and trust are critical components of success.  Which is another reason I feel compelled to share - we need to have this dialogue.  

    There is a line that exists between helpful, constructive, appropriate feedback and inappropriate and shame-filled.  Comments about your chest size, weight, body size, food choices - and on - fall into the latter and are toxic.  While the intention might be to motivate, challenge, or joke - how the words are received on the other end matter.  And, we need to empower our girls to use their brave voice - to speak up and share when the noise starts to get loud.  

Shame cannot survive sharing.

~

 My mom noticed and helped me take action to clear the path to my dreams.  The change in culture was exactly what I needed - without it, I would have quit.  The noise settled and I was able to tap into those soul-tugging pulls to go after my childhood dream.   Her question and the commitment from my family to follow through - changed my life.  

My inner critic didn't disappear completely - and it wasn't until years later that I would build the skill set needed to see that voice as separate from me.  It still comes knocking - but I see it now - usually from a million miles away.  And, I know how to respond.  It no longer has power over me.  

We can't changed what's happened to us, but we can own our story fully - build our skill set - and release the shame.  When we do that, we have the power to write our own endings.  That we can do.  

~

How loud is your inner critic?

How is it blocking the path to your dreams?

~

I would love to help you get clarity here ~ and help you clear the path to your dreams by identifying + strengthening + building your skill set so you can move forward and achieve your gold medal moments in this life - and leave your mark on this world.

This is the work I do with young girls + women. To hop on a free discovery call with me - head over to www.samanthalivingstone.com/connect ~ <3