From a young age, I have always felt awkward around people, unsure of what to say, or worried about what others might think of me. No matter how hard I tried to fit in, or how close it appeared I was with a group of friends, I still felt like I did not belong.
The pressure to feel accepted turned me into a social chameleon. I tried to be the person I felt I should be, so I would blend in with those around me.
I have spent my entire life trying to fit in. I have always wanted to please people, to make my parents proud, and to receive approval from anyone and everyone.
So, without even realizing it I would change myself, my desires, and sometimes even my opinions to fit into whatever mold was required of me at the time.
When it comes to people, I see great big circles drawn on the ground. The circles have labels like “good looking” or “educated” or “athletic”. Everyone that fits into their circle finds their place. Yet, it felt as though I am left standing on the outside. I never fit into the right circle. Sports was my ticket into one of those circles… a means to feel like a “normal” person.
I began playing soccer when I was three years old and instantly fell in love with the sport. I never felt judged, berated, or criticized. Rather, I felt empowered, supported, and uplifted. I do not think I have ever felt more confident in my life than I did when I was playing soccer. I felt like my true self.
Soccer gave me a sense of purpose. It gave me an identity. I was focused and determined to get better every day. I submerged myself in the process of my training. I was constantly consumed by soccer and spent almost every moment of my spare time with a ball at my feet. Soccer became an addiction, it was a drug, a habit, it simply became my life.
Without it I was lost.
My whole identity was tied up in my sporting performance and my self-worth became extremely fragile. I became dependent on approval from my fellow players, coaches, and upon performing well. The better I became, the more love and acceptance I felt which led me to seek out even more approval. I would focus all my energy into training even harder.
This became a vicious cycle that literally stole the joy I had for the sport. It caused over training, injuries, an irritable mood and less and less love of the game. The fun was sucked out of it. After many years of this, I was completely turned off by soccer, quite burned out and miserable. I quit and never went back to the sport again.
My addictive relationship with soccer was a model for many other relationships as I got older. I needed to understand the part of me that would find joy in something but then the cycle would occur and it would leave me unfulfilled and empty.
Years later, as a personal trainer, my drive was to learn about the body, and movement. That turned into a passion to give back to others as I pursued a doctorate in Physical Therapy. I felt that if I could help injured athletes become more in touch with their passions while keeping their life balanced I could heal parts of myself. Today, I am a specialist in my field and have my own business.
My relationship to physical fitness has changed a lot too. I have not been to the gym in 2 years. I enjoy hiking the most. I want to do more yoga and tai chi for anxiety management, health and wellness. I’m still managing my addictive nature. I can easily fall into working too much these days and constantly try to figure out balance and self care.
This picture I selected was a photo of when I truly enjoyed soccer. See that smile on my face? It’s genuine joy and passion I once felt. That was a long time ago but I wanted to post it to remind myself of how pure it was. Part of my self care now is to honor my past and continue to nurture that joyful younger part of me.