As an athlete, sometimes it's easier being the underdog. I know, I know. That sounds crazy, right? As an underdog, you literally have to fight your way to the top, most of the time with little support. But you know what an underdog has going for them? Hunger. Drive. Motivation. And relentless stubbornness. All of these characteristics can be extremely helpful when chasing dreams. An underdog has something to prove, and that can carry them through almost anything they face. But what happens when an underdog becomes the top dog? Is the drive and motivation still there? One of the biggest fears of any athlete is not just getting to the top. But believing they deserve to stay at the top.
When you achieve your dreams, there can be this overwhelming pressure to constantly be “winning”. Thoughts like, "Do I still have IT?" or "Do I still have what it takes?" "Am I still relevant?" These thoughts can create debilitating doubt in even the best athletes. And for what?
Sometimes, when you are used to being in a constant state of hustling and grinding, it can feel like you don't belong when you finally reach your dreams. This is also known as Imposter Syndrome. Imposter syndrome is "a psychological condition that is characterized by persistent doubt concerning one's abilities or accomplishments accompanied by the fear of being exposed as a fraud despite evidence of one's ongoing success." Imposter syndrome can make you feel like a fraud and like you don't deserve all of your hard-earned success. Some characteristics of imposter syndrome are as follows:
- An inability to realistically assess your competence and skills
- Attributing your success to external factors
- Berating your performance
- Fear that you won't live up to expectations
- Sabotaging your own success
- Setting very challenging goals and feeling disappointed when you fall short
Do any of these hit close to home? At one point or another, we all experience self-doubt, and we all feel like we don't belong or don't deserve good things happening in our lives. This self-doubt might even lead to self-sabotage. Do you ever find yourself downplaying your accomplishments? Or have a hard time taking compliments? Do you engage in activities and behavioral patterns that probably aren't the healthiest for you? Or maybe you catch yourself thinking, "this is too good to be true."
All of these doubts, thoughts, and fears are EXHAUSTING and can put us in a negative headspace.
We often mistake imposter syndrome characteristics as a way to "stay humble." As an athlete, you do have to "stay humble," but you have to have an insane amount of self-confidence. Often people will interpret self-confidence as arrogance. So, where is the happy medium? Let me ask you this, what if self-confidence is built BECAUSE our big dreams and goals force us to stay humble. Out of the humility of our dreams grows our self-belief and self-confidence in our ability to achieve that dream. Do not become disheartened because you don't believe in yourself all the time or don't believe you can achieve your dream. When those doubts start creeping in, that's when we press forward. That's when we double down and have faith in our dreams.
When you get to the "top," remember all that it took to get there. Be PROUD of that, and always remember how far you have come.
So how do you stay on top without falling victim to imposter syndrome?
First, it might help if you ask yourself these questions:
- What's the dream. What's the goal?
- What are you willing to do for this goal? How far are you willing to go?
- What is your why?
- Who are you doing this for? Yourself? An image? Your family?
- What are you learning from this pursuit?
- Are you giving back from what you have gained?
Be honest with yourself when answering these questions, but also be kind. The answers will change and that’s okay. The point is that by asking these questions, you can go back and remember who you are, where you come from and why you are doing what you are doing.
The second way to combat imposter syndrome is by helping others. I know some of us have bigger hills to climb, deeper holes to get out of, but that is when we help each other. If you are in a position to help someone else who is struggling, do it! Part of accepting that you deserve all of your success comes from helping others. Do what you can, where you are, with what you've got. If you get the opportunity to help someone out, give them an opportunity or a piece of inspiration, do it! We are our worst critics, and we are so good at downplaying our accomplishments, we forget that someone else in the world looks up to us and thinks, "If they could do it. So can I." By being you and pursuing your dream, it creates a space for someone else to go after their own dream. Then someone will look at that person and go after their dream, and then before you know it, a chain reaction of dream chasing has been lit.
As I write this, I think about my journey as an athlete. I think of all the doubts, of all the joy, the good times, and the not-so-good times.
I hope YOU get to a place in your athletic journey where you don't have to grind out of fear. But out of joy. I hope you fall in love with the process of pushing past your perceived limits. Because that's what this is all about. Top dog, underdog, none of it really matters. What matters is what you get from the process. You won't always love it and it definitely will NOT be easy. But can you look back and say that you learned something at the end of your journey? Can you look back and say that you kept your character and integrity? Can you say you gave it everything you had? If you can say yes to all of those, then you have nothing to fear. You won.
Lastly, remember that you are worthy of every goodness life has to offer. You are strong enough to handle any obstacle life throws your way, and you become even stronger for asking for help when you need it. You are worthy of all of your goals and dreams coming true. You are worthy of being loved to the fullest. And never accept anything less.