Lessons from the Winter Olympics and being a 'choker.' - Mind Body Paddle

Lessons from the Winter Olympics and being a ‘choker.’

Lessons from the Winter Olympics and being a ‘choker.’

Do you equate your performance to your self-worth?

If you do, your emotional state probably fluctuates between being super happy and proud when you perform well, and feeling like a terrible failure as a human being when you don’t.

This week at the Winter Olympics we saw the number one ranked skier in the world, Mikaela Shiffrin, ‘fail’ at the Olympics. She skied out of the course in both GS and Slalom (her best events), and miss the podium in Super G and Downhill.

Alpine ski racing was my first sports love. I raced competitively from the age of 10 until 18 before discovering whitewater kayaking. And as a whitewater kayaker, I competed in freestyle and extreme racing on the international stage for 5 years. I competed for Canada, my native country, and made the podium at the World Freestyle Championships.


When I was ranked #3 in the world in freestyle kayaking I started to put a lot of pressure on myself in every competition. And when I didn’t make the podium I found myself in tears. I started telling myself that I was a choker and that I couldn’t handle pressure. I didn’t have coaches or a support system who understood competition at that level. The stories in my head about what a failure I was, or how awesome I was depended on that week’s competition result. It’s a terrible way to live, and it affected my relationship with my husband, with friends and my ability to love myself.

So, when Mikaela posted on Instagram this week some of the comments she was receiving about her ‘failure,’ I got teary eyed. Specifically, she posted comments she received about being a choker and not being able to perform under pressure. These words brought me right back to how I use to talk to myself and how detrimental it was to my confidence and my ability to perform to my potential. Not only that, but how detrimental it is to equate your self-worth with your performance.

You are not your performance

Mikaela had a wonderful response and she has a great attitude. She is surrounded by coaches and a community who understand that performance doesn’t equal self-worth. That ‘failure’ is an opportunity to learn and grown, and that we all have moments when we don’t perform to our potential.

In a different post her mother, who happens to be her coach, posted a reminder to Mikaela and teammates that ‘it’s just a race.’ In other words, yes the Olympics have a lot of hype, but at the end of the day, it’s just another race. Life will go on and the World Cup will go on after the Olympics.

Are you making it significant?

It all boils down to the fact that you create a lot of suffering for yourself when you assign a lot of significance to any one performance or event. When you peel off the layers you realize that significance is all made up in your mind. The significance of the Olympics is made up in the minds of many for sure, but it’s still made up. Once the games are done, we all move on. Yes, the games are an opportunity for athletes to perform, show off their skills and use that spotlight for future opportunities, but at the end of the day, it’s not life or death.

Shift the conversation

I’m so grateful for athletes like Mikaela Shiffrin and Simone Biles who are changing the conversation around self-worth and performance. They are being amazing role models for all of us to remember that it’s just a performance, it’s just one moment in time and you’ve got your whole life to live.

In her post Mikaela says: “Get up, Again. Again. Again. Again. Again. Again. Get up because you can, because you like what you do…”

So, if you’re feeling thwarted and like a failure today, I encourage you to be like Mikaela and get up, again. Be brave and shift the conversation with yourself. Find people, coaches and community who support you in shifting that conversation. Because you are A LOT more, and worth a A LOT more than your performance.

Did you watch the Winter Olympics? If so, what did you learn from the athletes and their performances? Email me and let me know!

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