Confessions Of An Insecure Olympian

Written by Jamie Silverstein

There’s a story about two young fish swimming. They see an older fish who stops and asks: “Hey boys! How’s the water?”

The young fish look at each other and then finally one says: “What the hell is water?”

Believing your toxic stories can feel like this sometimes. When we're always told what our reality is, it can be hard to see the beauty around us. Worse, it can be hard to see the beauty within us.

What if you are not who he told you you were? What if you didn’t live by her definition of success? What if you were not your story?

I grew up figure skating. And, not your frozen-lake-Christmastime figure skating. I grew up training to be an Olympian. Then one day, I became one. I became an Olympian, at the expense of fully becoming myself. I became an Olympian by following an accepted metric. I did not always listen to my heart. (I have the eating disorder scars to prove it.)

Still, please don’t get me wrong; I do not regret my journey or my time skating. Not. One. Bit.

I am *so* lucky and blessed to have been given the opportunities and skills that skating taught me. But, I was also taught very narrow parameters of self-understanding and self-acceptance. I was taught what was "beautiful" and I was taught what I needed to change. And, I believed these things.

Fast-forward eight years—As I learn more about my unique needs and abilities, I’ve learned to buck some of what I believed was true. Of course, it was easy to define myself by an external metric or by what I was doing! (HINT: It’s easy for *a lot* of us to find definition this way.) I even learned to define myself by comparison. For me, the mores of skating kept me "swimming" if you will— swimming from competition to competition, from should to should, from restriction to restriction. I just kept swimming. And, I did this unabashedly and without ever considering an alternative.

When you're always trying to fit yourself in a specified box, you never stop to question: why is there a box? I know I'm not alone in this.

We tend to swim a lot.

Nowadays, I’ve traded my figure skates for barefoot freedom of yoga. Still, my mind often struggles with the beliefs it learned long ago. In the past, I never asked: ‘why does this make sense for me?’. Now though, I am learning to.

Dana Trixie Flynn says: “Move like yourself.” For me, this is truly what yoga offers. Yoga offers me a chance to know and love myself. In my practice, I work to dissolve my learned rhetoric, which encourages me to make myself fit into a pose. Instead, I work to make a pose fit into my heart. The more things feel like they fit me, the more I can feel beautiful as me. We all can.

Today, on your mat, when you start noticing what you are doing "wrong," stop swimming. Instead ask: how am I doing this beautifully? 

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