Almost as rare as a shooting star, every four years the world comes together to celebrate human ability and culture through the avenue of sport. This has developed into an event that has become a worldwide spectacle, a platform of great achievements.
The Olympics is a lifelong dream that many individuals desire since early childhood. For majority of dreamers, there was some sort of experience that sparked excitement and ignited a goal that would steer them down a specific path. That dream of participating at the highest stage of sport is prevalent, and very distinguishable, to the point that magnifies the value of the Olympic Games.
I’ve never had such dreams.
Honestly, I’ve never had dreams at all; no dreams of living in a mansion with five cars, no dreams of a wife and kids, no dreams of anything. When asked about my future, my response would reflect how I see the person asking. If a professor asked of my future, I would give a response that would make that person, who has given their time and effort towards the guiding of young lives, feel as if their work has been accomplished. If it were a reporter, the answer would reflect the theme of the story they are hoping to write. The answer would never be the truth, maybe a possible truth, but never my full truth.
I began writing blogs to give a side of myself that not many have seen. The process has since become a way of self-examination and discovery, an unintentional means of therapy. Recently, I have been wanting to tell of my Olympic experience. I delayed because I told myself that I want to form a masterpiece of this “supposed” great experience. Or rather, I told myself that the audience wants to read a masterpiece, not my experience. It wasn’t until recently that I discovered I have a problem. I am a perfectionist, and it is becoming self-destructive.
Brené Brown brought to my attention in her book, Daring Greatly, how we all hide behind different shields, not as a tool for battle, but as a façade to hide our vulnerabilities. When we do so, we fail to live, we fail to experience life. That is when I realized I failed to live and experience the Olympic Games.
The Olympics was to be the grand finale for the many storylines. It was going to a story of triumph for an individual battling a life-threatening brain condition. It was going to be a story of strength of an athlete blacklisted from a federation, only to emerge once again and prove what they missed out on. It was going to be a story of an unlikely hero carrying the hopes of a small country to Olympic glory. In the eyes of a perfectionist, none of those came about in a manner that I had hoped, and because of that, I felt tremendous shame. Where was my shield to hide behind now?
Striving for excellence and the idea of perfectionism are not synonymous. Instead of being about growth, perfectionism is a defensive move that hopes to minimize the pain that comes from judgment and shame. At the very core, it is centered and based on others and their approval. This fear that we may not meet people’s expectations will constantly keep us hustling. It is an idea centered around perception, something that is impossible to control. Instead of allowing our true potential to flourish, we forgo internal motivation which requires bravery, and choose the easy route by simply playing the role already expected.
I did everything well in regards to my physical body leading up to the Games. Times in training runs were indicative of a potentially great performance. Health was phenomenal and everything was falling into place. The only thing that could stop me from shocking the world was myself; and, regrettably, I let myself win. To break away from this hold of perfectionism, I needed to appreciate the “beauty of my cracks” and accept the truth about who I am. I needed to let go of what people would think, and move towards the belief that “I am enough.”
The gun went off, the stadium erupted, I became conscious, and 20 seconds later, it was over. I felt I failed everyone (family, friends, coaches, country, teammates) except for myself. How could someone feel as if they failed everyone but themselves… if/when they didn’t believe in themselves to begin with?
This track season, World Championships are in London, August 2017. This season will be dedicated to realizing the truth of who I am, and appreciating every bit of that person. Through mindfulness training, self-kindness, common humanity, I will make this journey a discovery of new land. Finding the beauty in our cracks is discovering that the beauty comes from its own existence; no longer living to the expectation of others, but still standing without compromise.
Jeremy Dodson, I am an Olympian; but that is only one sentence in this novel of life.
Jeremy Dodson is a Track & Field Olympian who struggles with the idea of perfection, hoping to break the barrier we place on ourselves so that genuine living can take place for everyone.