By: Allison Annala, IATG Contributor February 15, 2016
As a former gymnast, and now gymnastics coach, I take a lot of long bus rides. My team travels all around the country, and over the last 10 years I’ve spent many hours on a dark bus riding off into the night.
This is where I do my best thinking. When I plug in my headphones, stare out the window and zone out on reality. I stare at my reflection in the tinted window, listen to music that moves my soul, and completely dissect my world.
During those nights, looking out that window and gazing at the stars would bring me so much peace, and at the same time I felt like each night I was opening old wounds, trying to uncover where the road ahead was going to lead me.
But looking forward is hard to do when you’re still clinging to your past.
You see, I’ve never felt like I was exactly where I was supposed to be. As an athlete, I struggled significantly with feeling adequate. I never felt good enough, strong enough, pretty enough, did I say good enough? I always dreamt of being the hero, the girl everyone could rely on, the rock, the “All American.” I never felt like I truly accomplished that as a gymnast. As a coach, I’ve always tried to channel those insecurities into helping others accomplish their goals. But somewhere, deep down, that unsure athlete still seems to reside.
“I’m not enough. I will never be enough. I can’t give my team what they need from me. I’m too broken to do this. I don’t deserve to find success in this.”
These are thoughts that would ravage my mind on those long bus rides home. It was an onslaught of negative self-talk that I couldn’t avoid, like a reflex. I would blame my twice torn ACL on everything. All of my fears and all of my inadequacies, everything was the fault of that darn knee. There had been so much pain-so much pain. I assumed the knee was punishment for not being good enough, that it signified I was not worthy enough to carry the weight of my team. Something I wanted desperately to be able to do.
After the eating disorder began this all got worse, of course. Now, it was an all-encompassing fear of failure. I couldn’t control my life so I tried, in vain, to control what I could: my food. It was a disaster. No one could understand the hurt that was happening inside of me, let alone talk me out of my despair.
On the bus though, in the darkness, my loneliness had company as I rode off into the seemingly endless night staring at the familiar face in the window. Only she was aware of the war that was going on inside of me.
I’ve spent the past year looking forward. I’ve met people who have changed my perspective, enhanced my outlook, and reminded me that I am 100% enough, regardless of where I’ve been or where I’m going. When there is a long road behind you and a lot of road ahead of you, the only thing that really matters is that you recognize where you’re at along the journey and to appreciate that in that moment you are exactly where you are supposed to be.
At a certain point along this path to self-discovery, I looked out the window and saw someone else. The person staring back at me didn’t reflect the brokenness I had once felt. She looked brave and beautiful and so happy. The cracks seemed to have mended and the light from the stars glistened so beautifully on the snow, giving me the warmest feeling of love. It was like seeing your best friend for the first time after spending years away. She was there; she was ready to embrace me, and she was proud.
That got me thinking that sometimes we need to look past the cracks. Maybe they’re only on the surface, maybe they’re a little deeper. Who knows, maybe it was never me that was broken, maybe it was the glass.
Where and how do you do your best reflecting? Why is it important to slow down and pause deeply? Write a love note to your past self telling her how proud you are of how she’s grown.
Allison is a huge advocate for girls and women, particularly when it comes to body image and self-worth! She coaches gymnastics and teaches at her Alma Matter, the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. Visit her blog www.allison-lifeisbeautiful.blogspot.com.
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