I few weeks ago, I was driving in my car listening to Jonathan Van Ness’ podcast, Getting Curious with JVN, as I do every week. If you’re unfamiliar with JVN, he’s on Netflix’s reboot of Queer Eye as well as being my own personal Jesus. Additionally, he is an avid fan of ice skating and is a burgeoning skater himself. This week in particular, he hosted the skating legend herself, Michelle Kwan, to talk about her life and figure skating.
At one point in the podcast, Michelle recounted an interview she had with Jay Leno after the 1998 Olympics where she placed 2nd behind Tara Lipinski in the Ladies Singles figuring skating competition. People at the time kept asking her how it felt to lose the gold medal at the Olympics, especially coming off her US National Championship win just two months previous.
In response, Michelle retorted with, “I didn’t lose the gold, I won the silver.”
I was an athlete for 7 years and the high expectations to perform extended to every facet of my life, well after my throwing career was over. My mantra of sorts went something like, “Throwing is fun because winning is fun.”
Truthfully, I think this mindset had begun before my athletic career. Growing up as the youngest in my family laid the foundation, athletics just exacerbated the problem and gave it a channel through which to grow.
When I was competing, if I wasn’t #1 then nothing I did seemed to matter.
This personal philosophy has rolled over to every activity I’ve done or wanted to do; if I wasn’t winning or being the best, then my attempts felt fruitless. From a young age, I felt like I didn’t need my mediocrity over-saturating the market.
Why bother if someone was always going to be better/more deserving/smarter than me?
What struck me with Michelle’s response was that she was still happy and satisfied without that gold medal. Michelle gave herself permission to be proud of how she did, what she did to get there, and what her being visible did for so many others.
This concept felt new to me and yet so rational, that you can be good and even great without the self loathing of not being the best.
I realized in that moment how many times I invalidated myself and the things I’d like to do because I didn’t consider myself the best. I’ve stopped so many creative pursuits because it was easier to alleviate some shame by quitting than reworking my mindset.
I’m grateful now to have the tools to transform my mindset and to begin the process of giving myself permission to unabashedly love and create and share.
There will probably always be someone who’s better than me at a variety of things. Luckily, there is no master list of who’s best to worst in any given thing. It’s something we create for ourselves as a road block.
Comparison is the thief of joy and I will repeat that phrase until I finally get that the only thing in my way of doing what I want is me, not the person I feel is a step ahead.
We are all running our own races and seeing someone ahead of us, somewhere in the distance, holds no relevance to our own race.
As any good thing does, my loves, this change and transformation is a process that takes time. But I believe we will find the place where we appreciate, honor, and enjoy our silver, not resenting it as a stepping stone or as a short coming, but for what it is: worth it.