In a weekend literally filled to the brim with studying and work, the one bright spot was seeing my good friend, Kelly Kassen, take to the stage in her figure debut on Saturday. Congratulations to Kelly on 3rd place in Figure A!
This was a busy competition weekend around the country and my Facebook homepage has been bombarded with posts and updates about callouts, placings, and qualifying for Nationals from many of the competitors I’m fortunate enough to be connected to via Facebook. Many of them placed and/or qualified for Nationals (meaning they placed top two or three in their class depending on size) in their first competitions. I have to say that I reacted to all of this with mixed emotion.
When I started prepping for my competition, winning was not even remotely on my radar. I just wanted to survive the process and get on stage proud of what I had accomplished. Placing would have just been icing on the cake. In fact, I was pretty pleased with placing 7th out of 11 in my height class.
I have to say that seeing the success of others, especially on their first attempts at competing, makes me want it for myself. I want to place. I want the validation and recognition that comes from not just getting on stage, but from getting a trophy and qualifying to compete at the next level (Nationals). I absolutely admit to being envious. But more so, it made me start to consider what it is I have to do in order to be successful like them.
There were 301 competitors at the Mesa show this weekend. THREE HUNDRED people who spent weeks, months, and possibly years working their asses off, making sacrifices, and practicing discipline, all competing against each other in what is a notoriously subjective sport. The girls who compete, whether bikini or figure, are all incredibly beautiful fit women. And I really do mean all of them. Dazzling is the word that comes to mind.
I realized something late last night after a long day of having my nose buried in my Abnormal Psychology textbook (coincidence?). One of my core beliefs about myself and who I am, something that has been ingrained in the essence of my being for as long as I can remember is…
I can never be successful competing in anything that is based on physical appearance.
That sounds harsh and it is. I think I’ve been somewhat aware of this belief, but it’s never been clear enough in my mind to articulate until last night. My entire life I have been recognized and applauded for my intelligence – for getting good grades, for scoring high on exams, for pursuing a higher education. Even in my work life, most of the things I receive praise for are related to various types of intelligence – communication, problem-solving, technical expertise, etc.
Physical appearance is not something that I have received much positive recognition for. I was definitely more of a nerd in my childhood and teenage years and went through the stereotypical awkward phases of adolescence (glasses and braces). I used to be incredibly shy and reserved and quiet. Academia was the stage on which I could shine. My value came from my brain, not what I looked like. So here I am thinking to myself, “Gosh, there are literally thousands of fit gorgeous women who all want to place/qualify for Nationals/turn pro…how could I ever hope to successfully compete with them?”
This is not a self-loathing post or me claiming that I’m ugly. This is also not an attempt to fish for compliments. The thing about your self-beliefs is that no one can change them but you. Other people can tell you that you’re pretty or funny or smart or whatever your particular hang up about yourself is, but unless you are open and willing to see yourself that way, no amount of compliments from other people will ever change the way you feel about who you are. It starts with an internal paradigm shift, not an external one.
My point is that I have this major stumbling block in terms of a self-belief that will unquestionably prevent me from achieving the success I want. Now I have to figure out a way to remove this obstacle and change my thoughts. I’m still formulating a specific plan, but I know it will mean changing my inner dialog, my self-talk. Positive affirmations may seem reminiscent of New Age hooey and crackpot self-help books, but your thoughts dictate your beliefs, your beliefs influence your behavior, and ultimately your behavior drives your performance. It’s ironic that the very thing that I value so much (my brain) is actually the thing that could be my biggest downfall. You can’t outperform your self image. So I’ve got to reconstruct mine.
My trainer, 2 time Figure Olympia Champion and 3 time Arnold International Winner, Nicole Wilkins (photos taken 7 years apart)
Erin Stern, 2010 Figure Olympia Champion and hopeful Olympic high jump athlete (photos taken 8 years apart)