The Confidence of an Olympian

One thing that always amazes me about Olympic athletes, especially the young ones, is their confidence. They might nervous or anxious, but they have demonstrated to themselves that they *can* do this thing, this feat of physical strength and grace. They know they are among the very best for a reason – they earned it.

I am not a confident person. I didn’t grow up surrounded by confident people nor people who thought instilling self-confidence was important or necessary. While I knew that I could accomplish certain things without difficulty (for example, passing a history test or completing a tak at work), it didn’t offset the sense that I wasn’t resilient.

Of course, I didn’t know what resiliency meant. I just knew that I didn’t feel good enough, not  good enough to be someone. From my viewpoint, people earned acceptance, validation, and value by doing things. So I would get good grades. I held jobs. I tried extracurricular activities. I would achieve something, feel good about it, and then immediately feel that good ooze out of me as I contemplated everything else in life. I was chasing self-worth and there was just never enough external validation to permanently flip that switch.

It was a collision course of Catholic guilt, working class squashing of feelings, and a disorganized attachment to my caregivers. Unbeknownst to me, I was separated from my parents for an undetermined period of time in my infancy when my mother was hospitalized and my father put me with relatives who were not capable of properly caring for me for many reasons. It was 3-6 months most likely. No one ever spoke about this. I was reunited with my mother & father after she gave birth to my brother. That’s when we moved into the working class neighborhood a half mile away from the Catholic church.


Somehow, this mish mash of circumstances and attachment problems turned me into a kid who felt I had to earn my existence in the world. Not my way, not my living, not my share of the glory. I had to earn the right to exist. I had to compensate for existing which is a ridiculous burden for any child, any person, to carry.

So I have never been able to understand the mindset of feeling like I could do anything. Now that I understand more about attachment theory, systemic oppression, inherited trauma, and other concepts that frame how I grew up in this world, I realize that confidence is not innate. I don’t feel so bad about my anxiety and fear, about the things that prevent from striding boldly into the light because I understand them. I don’t feel like such a rube. And sometimes I still make that stride, but usually only when it is necessary to help someone or speak up.

Watching various interviews with Olympic athletes, I’m so impressed by their confidence and their innate view that they *can* do it, even with nerves or whathave you. I absolutely cannot fathom taking that sort of risk when I was younger (or now, to be honest.)

And kids like me need more exposure to confident people, healthy confident people. So do adults. That’s one thing I value about the Olympics, personally.

What do you value about the Olympics?



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