Time for an honest moment. I don’t know how this happened, but fortunately I do know why. The expressed emotions from the people who are close to me and the opposing ways of disciplining my emotions has led me to lie time and time again. I guess it is a good thing that I haven’t been lying to myself at least.
When I write this it is with my last CC race in mind, but also several other types performances on my behalf. I now that some of my closest people, like family members and friends, really just wants me to be satisfied with my performances no matter the result. When asked if I am happy or satisfied, I somehow feel obligated to say yes and smile, because nobody likes Debbie Downer. Of course I too believe that there is no point in digging yourself down and going to dark places just because something didn’t pan out the way you had planned. Looking on the bright side is always a good plan, but I don’t think not constructively analyzing how things went or suppressing emotions you feel just to appear positive is. Experiencing your emotions is a part of processing what just happened.
Breathe through you teeth
In the community and discipline of dance the way to deal with emotions during the daily grind of training is still imprinted in me. Complaining, or not even complaining, but speaking about pain or tiredness is frowned upon and considered weak. That meant I never complained in class or at school where I had to perform, but when I got home I’d let it out. I didn’t notice it at the time, but my mom once reminded me that I when I was dancing was always in pain. Because I suppressed physical pain all day, every day for years, it became the norm. One of my dear, dear dance teachers once said: “Breathe to your teeth, then you’ll be always be smiling. The audience is not paying to see how tired you are”. The last part of that quote is very true.
Since I started CC-skiing and running I have been complaining much more, haha! Or rather I have learned to listen more to my when my body is in t”he wrong kind of pain” and what it is whispering to or screaming at me. Have I had less pain? Yes, indeed! Pain and injury management is better and smarter now. Still, I keep breathing through my teeth and smilingly assure people around me that yes I am satisfied with my races, when I’m really not.
The mindset of being a high achiever was also instilled in me by my father, who did well in sports, has a mathematicians brain and speaks 4 languages 100% fluently. Bah! We start getting grades in secondary school, and when I came home with a 4 or 5 (which is equivalent to C and B) he would ask me why I didn’t get the top grade. He never praised me for getting a B. At the time I got really annoyed and I felt that he didn’t understand how much work it took just to get the next best grade, and had to explain how certain teachers never awarded their students with the top grade as a rule (most idiotic rule ever, the whole scale is there for a reason!). On the other hand, I had my mom who assured me that as long as I got a fairly good grade and was satisfied with myself it was fine.
However, my dad planted something in me. He’d got me thinking: “Hm..I do wonder why I didn’t get the top grade?” I wondered what ingredients were missing from my performance? I also started to analyze my teachers, their style of teaching, what grades they gave to what and to whom. Then I’d comply to what my teachers demanded, which would not always reflect with my personal opinions about what was best, and I also took a special interest in how I’d learn better because I knew it would land me those top grades. Learning how to learn is a skill in it’s own, and a very useful one that you’ll have for life. I am not an expert in learning disabilities , but if you struggle with learning, cognitively as well as physically, learning how to learn is something I really recommend. It sort of broke the code for me back then and I still use those same learning skills and tricks everyday.
Another thing imprinted in me as a result of years of strict training discipline is exactly the opposite of expressing satisfaction: I am never ever satisfied, no matter what type of performance: a deadlift, public speaking, a class I taught or a race I did. There is always something you can improve, because you can always learn something new about even the simplest of movements or strategies. Nothing about the mind and the body is completely static. In physical performance, even though you know a movement pattern very well, just the tiniest of change can make the lines more beautiful (applies more to aesthetic sports and art forms), make force production more efficient so you’ll either be able to generate grater force in a movement or increase work economy.
If the mindset of never being satisfied with your exercise and sports performance sounds a bit sad or a bit like self-torture, don’t worry. The type mindset of dissatisfaction I have is all about being open and constructive. I try to always find something interesting and possibly new in the movements I have done thousands upon thousands of times. The fact that I am never satisfied does not mean that I can’t be happy with my performances. I can be happy, but analytical. If I find a mistake or flaw, I will still be happy and have had fun, but I’m not at all satisfied. This is perhaps my way of keeping the fire going, of developing and growing. I like it and it has been working for me for years on several different arenas.
Just be happy when you feel like it, and with mindful reflection, analysis and action-taking you’ll forever keep learning and growing.