Hey! Welcome back to the 10.0 Podcast. The podcast designed for any athlete who knows they have more to give in this life to maximize their full potential. If you’re not familiar with 10.0, I recommend you subscribe to the podcast, start from the beginning, and work your way back here when you have the time!
So this season we’re going to take a different approach. Don’t worry, we’ll still have a bunch of your favorite guests on here, but we’re going to dive deeper in solo episodes too. On today's episode, we discuss why we try to live up to other peoples' expectations and how we can live a more authentic, intentional, and fulfilled life we can call our own.
Recently, I've been thinking about what it means to be an athlete and I've even been asking a few different people if they consider themselves athletes despite being no longer competitive. The majority of themselves say yes they do still consider themselves athletes because they’re still athletic.
I myself think about the shame I felt in college when I called myself an athlete. For some reason, I didn't feel like I could say that because I wasn't on a team at USC. I trained independently, wasn’t competitive at the time, but I felt like if I said I was an athlete to a student-athlete, they’d think I was lying. Who is “they”? Actual student-athletes, professors, people on social media, the kids I coached. I didn’t feel good enough.
I don't know how else to explain it, because it's not true. I created this reality for myself that unless I was on the diving team or a Song Girl, that I couldn’t technically be considered a student athlete. That title seemed reserved for people who were on a team affiliated with the school. Like just because I was an athlete as well as a student, I couldn’t refer to myself as that. I felt if I called myself an athlete, that D1 athletes would resent me and think, “Well you don’t have to be up for 5AM practices, have tutoring, or do two-a-days.” Just because our school didn’t offer my sport, didn’t give anyone the right to see me as any less than. I was just different. The club we had for gymnastics, I didn’t like, so I trained gymnastics and aerial arts independently.
Even to this day when people ask me, “where did you do gymnastics?” I get confused. So I tell them, “Oh I did it at a club in Redondo Beach,” or “I train independently, but I'm not competitive.” What they're really asking is where did I go to school and compete? When I clarify and tell them that I did not compete in college, my inner voice screams “Imposter!” and I feel like they prejudged me as worthy, and then immediately sucked it away. But just because your school doesn't have your sport, you're not a division 1 athlete, you're on a club team, or you’re just athletic in general… That does not mean that you're not allowed to say that you're an athlete.
And who cares if other people actually think what you think they think in your head!? (Hah, try to figure out that sentence!) It’s so true though.
This self-imposed idea of unworthiness has got to stop. But that's just it: we’re athletes. We have high expectations for ourselves. We compete with others, but most of all, we compete with ourselves. When we finish a game, a match, a meet, or what have you - whether or not we won - our mind immediately goes into replay mode. “Okay, what could I have done better?” “How can I improve next time?” “Why did that have to happen, I was doing so well.” Instead of sitting there on the bus or in the car thinking, “Wow. I’m proud of myself today. I did my best.” Some of you might have laughed as I said that, but when, if ever, have you said that to yourself after a performance where you didn’t place first or win?
It’s almost as if we’re taught that it’s wrong to celebrate unless you win. Which is why so many of us are left with inadequate self-esteem after we leave a sport.
None of us are better than one another, we're all just different. We all struggle with vulnerability. We all struggle with showing our emotions because (depending on what sport you were in) we were taught from a very young age not to. (More about this in upcoming episodes). Each one of us is still a human, and it's important to not put ourselves on a pedestal either just because we're athletic and excel in physical aspects. We all have strengths and weaknesses.
But back to this whole identity talk. Why is it that some of us feel guilty when we say “I'm an athlete,” and some of us believe it wholeheartedly. And the difference in how we identify ourselves is clearly shown in the way we live our lives.
Example. If you’re in college and you think of yourself as an athlete, you’'re going to naturally put more pressure on yourself because of that label. Student-athletes are supposed to succeed in all of their classes, somehow make every practice and game while being away from school half the week during season. When you add that label to your identity, you feel like you have to live up to the expectations that others put on you. You’re expected to eat healthy at all times, because there are always eyes on you. Socially, you have to fit in too. It's the classic cliché every TV show or movie portrays about athletes. The jocks stay with the jocks. The band stays with the band... Even if they're a common interests between both parties.
Now let's say you think of yourself as an athlete but you're not on a team. In college, I made myself take PE classes every semester in order to keep up my physical fitness. I knew that since I was no longer competing in gymnastics and I was so focused on school and work, I needed to schedule fitness into my life to continue to make it a priority.
Athletics is part of who I am. Even though these were just classes, I was able to broaden my experience in tons of different areas. I learned yoga, I did self defense and mixed martial arts. I learned how to weight train after never setting foot in an actual gym with my entire life. I also discovered the sport of Pole Fitness while I was in college. I was only doing it recreationally at the time, and little did I know I would end up going on to compete and placing in Regional and National competitions. Sounds like an athlete to me…
I still had a crazy hard schedule to manage. 16 to 18 units each semester, I worked 2 part time jobs while in school since I wasn’t on a full ride athletic scholarship. You have to remember that you're still an athlete even if you're not on a team. You are no less of an athlete if you train independently, if you do it recreationally, if you play pick up games with friends, you are still an athlete. You may be quote unquote “retired,” but the title that comes after that adjective is athlete. It’s in your blood and it will always be in your blood until the day you die. So it’s about time you stop feeling ashamed that you didn’t play in college. You are just as much of an athlete as any student athlete you went to school with.
So, why do we allow ourselves to put so much value on the opinions of others? Isn't what we think about ourselves more important than the perceived opinions of others? When we allow other people's opinions of us to rank higher than our own opinions of ourselves, we get caught trying to live up to other people's expectations of us. And when we do that, we risk losing a bit of our Independence and identity. When we feel like we have to be a certain way all of the time, it makes it hard for us to stand out and be a unique individual.
For example, on a few market research calls I've had over the past week, this topic came up more than once. And specifically, on one call, I was speaking with a dancer who fell that dance did not teach her how to be an individual. When when you're on an organized team, it's essential to fit in. You listen to your coach or teacher, you address them with respect, and it's hard to allow yourself to have high self-esteem, self-worth, and value.
When you work so hard at every practice, and people see you as the upbeat one, the one who is always in a good mood, it feels like we have this pressure put on us by our coaches, our teammates, our parents to always be golden. reality, inside your head you're struggling. You feel defeated. You want to be a real human. But others expect you to lift them up. What if you need someone to do the same for you?
We as humans are ever evolving creatures. We have our own highs and lows with plateaus, and most of us when we start a sport are at a very young age during our formative years. We are raised with these values of discipline, being a team player, and covering up our emotions to always appear strong. But vulnerability is what fosters connection. Most of us only understand this after we retire from competing.
So what does it truly mean to not base what you do and how you react based on what other people think? It starts with valuing yourself. It's essential to put everything into perspective. You have to.
Let’s pose this question… When you think about your life, who is with you until the very end? You, right? It's only you. You are the only person you have for the rest of your life. You were here when you came in and you will be there when you leave.
We’ll get into the topic of who this consciousness of “you” is that I speak of in a future episode, but for now, let’s keep it simple.
People come and go with every phase of our life. Sure, some people may have a more important role during different seasons of our lives. Like our parents when we’re under 18, our coaches during our competitive years, bosses at a particular job… These people can dictate our future. They can dictate our success. So while it's important to definitely take their opinions into consideration, it is not the end-all be-all to your value, you're worth, or your destiny. Everything they say is simply an opinion, not a fact. So you have the power to choose to make it a belief or not. It’s as simple as that.
Now let me be clear. I said it’s as SIMPLE as that. I didn’t say it was EASY.
Getting your mind to this level of repatterning takes time and practice. But once you’re made aware of it, you can consciously correct yourself to intentionally add another belief to your belief system, or choose to leave it as opinion.
Because whatever we choose to believe becomes how we see the world. Our beliefs dictate the decisions we make, how we view others and the world, and our personalities.
Let’s say, and I’m not assuming anything here, don’t yell at me - let’s assume you have a belief that rich people took advantage of others to get to where they are. Oof… Pretty brutal, huh? But not uncommon at all.
I want you to think about how a person like that would view their finances, who they would surround themselves with and how they would act. Again, for the purpose of this example, let’s dive in.
It’s safe to say this person would choose not to surround themselves with wealthy or successful individuals because they’d unconsciously fear being taken advantage of. So they may surround themselves who are at the same socioeconomic level as them or lower to not feel threatened or vulnerable. And you know as well as anyone, think about how it feels to compete with someone who is exactly at your level or isn’t as skilled as you. Not much of a challenge, huh? But you like a challenge.
Okay, so now they most likely would have an unconscious fear around money too. Uh, who fears money? What? Stay with me here, because that’s why I said UNCONSCIOUS. Sure, if I gave you $1,000 you’d celebrate. But the unconscious fear comes in like this. I’ve done this with some of our Train Like A Gymnast VIP Members and it’s always a fascinating exercise. I want you to think about an annual income goal you want for yourself.
You got it? Okay, now double it.
FREEZE! I can hear the alarms going off in your head right now. I can hear your laughter in my head. Do you see what I mean about unconscious fear!?
Let’s keep going. Why does more money scare you? Why does that seem unattainable to you? Maybe because you’ve never experienced it. And we all have a fear of the unknown. Even the most successful people you know have fear of the unknown. But do you know why they’re successful? They feel the fear, and they lean in anyway. So I want you to think about all of the resistance to this new doubled number. What are all the thoughts you’re telling yourself. If you’re not driving, it may help to even write them down to see it laid out in front of you.
Maybe you’re feeling like your family would think you’re better than them
Maybe you can’t imagine what you’d have to do to make that amount
Maybe you’re afraid of making a leap or switching careers
Maybe you think to make that amount you’d take time away from your partner or kids
Maybe you’ve never seen that amount of money, so you don’t even think it to be possible
But it is. And some of those you know what? You’re thinking about what other people think again.
Take the one where you’re thinking about what your family would think of you. If you live up to the expectations of family members or parents who you think would feel inferior, YOU certainly know that’s not the case… But subconsciously, you might keep yourself down for fear of upsetting anyone when you know you definitely have the potential for greatness.
Another example is those experiments where they prime a control group of students and a variable group of students. Each group is to take the same test. However, the variable group is instructed to racially identify themselves before the test. It’s fascinating how our brain will deceive us in order to make sense of our world. The stereotypes the students chose to believe about their race dictated their success on the test. African Americans who were required to identify their race prior to starting performed significantly worse. Just that little checkbox alone awakened many subconscious stereotypes that primed their brain to perform a certain way. Think about it... When coaches and teachers start off with lower expectations of us, we behave to meet those expectations. When they believe in us, we rise to the occasion to succeed.
I know that to be true for myself after hearing, “You’ll never make it to collegiate gymnastics if you act that way.” Hear that enough and you start to believe it. I probably could have had an attitude adjustment and made it if I had had coaches who coached the way I do, “I wouldn’t ask you to do this if I didn’t believe you could do it. I know you can. Trust yourself because I do.” That’s actually partly why I got back into gymnastics coaching in college. I wanted to give the gymnasts something that I didn’t have.
Think of how this can be true in your life with your experiences, I hope that gave you some insight of the risk and the CONSEQUENCES that can come from living your life based on other peoples’ expectations. It really can dictate how far you go in this life. And it ALL starts with what you believe to be true and how you decide to live your life.
Look, it comes down to the kind of person you want to be in this life. And when I asked people on the phone what they would say to their younger selves or to an athlete that is currently competitive, I heard things like, “ there are ways to maintain your competitive spirit on a daily basis without making life all or nothing,” “ how you feel in this moment is not always going to be there and there's no comparison to what the experiences you’re having and the memories you're creating are worth,” ” don't take it for granted,” “ don't be afraid to ask for help,” “get to know yourself on a deeper level and think about the person that you want to be in this lifetime.”
I know, pretty deep… but whether you relate to and resonate with these things now, or you will in the future, it's so important to understand and be able to live your life on your own terms. That’s truly a life worth living. When we constantly make every decision based on what someone else thinks, we end up living THEIR life. Or the life THEY want for us. We lose that independence that makes us us.
I don't know about you, but I remember being in relationships and not wanting to make decisions until I talked it over with my partner, and I very well should have an could have made the decision on my own. But once I look back on it, I realize I had to do that, in order to understand that I could do it myself.
And maybe that's the answer. You have to live your life according to other people's expectations at one time or another to be able to realize you need to put your foot down and say, that's it. It's okay to mess up, it's okay if I have to let someone down in order to be myself. It's not the end of the world, and I will stay the course.
Share your story! Tell me! How do YOU live your life on your own terms? We'd love to see how this episode impacted you - tag us @DanielleGrayFit and @TrainLikeAGymnast for a shoutout. Vulnerability fosters connection, so you never know who you may impact.
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If you’ve loved everything in this episode or have any takeaways, be sure to leave a review. As a thank you, I’d like to send you our Athlete Success Kit. I’ve included everything in this guide that helps me stay successful and productive personally and professionally. If you want your copy, just leave us a review and send us a screenshot to email@example.com and we’ll shoot it over to you!
Until next time, train with purpose…