Recently, I read an article about first impressions. In an interview with Business Insider, Harvard social psychologist Amy Cuddy points out, “If someone you’re trying to influence doesn’t trust you, you’re not going to get very far…” I found this statement both intriguing and refreshing. We do not need to be the smartest or the most charming person in the room to have an impact, but you do need to be someone who makes others feel comfortable. As an aspiring mentor and mental healthcare professional, I must gain the trust of others to provide information and a positive influence. I hope to have already influenced some of you but like any athlete or scholar knows, practice makes perfect. As an aspiring mental healthcare provider, I understand the importance of gaining trust; I want to use this opportunity to share about myself and further your trust in me. To gain trust, I believe you must be honest with who you are to others and most importantly, yourself. Hang tight while I get honest and improve my own self-understanding.
While I could tell you all about how growing up on a farm in small town USA has given me the work-ethic and determination to succeed, I will skip to the small-talk. I want to tell you about my biggest “failure” turning into my greatest adventure.
Basketball was a large part of my life and identity throughout high school and college. I spent hours practicing, playing, and watching basketball. I was fortunate enough to pursue my passion for basketball at Valley City State University (Google it). While everything seemed to be going as planned, my senior season was filled with unexpected heartbreak as I ruptured my ACL, LCL, and meniscus. I went from being a strong and fit athlete to an injured and defeated teenager. Slowly, with the help of God, family, and friends I learned more about myself outside of basketball.
After completing over seven months of rehabilitation, I underwent a second surgery to clear up scar tissue. I bounced back and was ready to be on the court (280 days later, approximately). While physically I was ready to play, mentally I had changed. I no longer saw myself as a basketball player but as an individual who was interested in the human body and the inner workings of the mind. I changed my major to Psychology and Exercise Science (the dominant duo) and thought, “If anyone can help and athlete or individual overcome a tough time, it’s me.”
While this shift in interest was beneficial for my education it was the catalyst for my early retirement from the game I love. I enjoyed the sport and I enjoyed playing but I did not have the same interest in competing as I had previously. My mindset and world-view shifted throughout my rehabilitation. After spending hundreds of hours completing physical therapy, I was able to find the value in a person’s ability aside from their performance. After my freshman season, I had difficult conversations with coaches, parents, and mentors about wanting to quit and transfer schools. While I had plenty of valid reasons for “retiring,” I still felt like a failure for quitting. I felt like I had let so many people down in my life; previous coaches, teammates, parents, and community. Despite these feelings, I saw a bigger picture in what my education had in store for me.
My identity crisis of 2015 led me to the University of South Dakota (GO YOTES!), which was one of the best things to ever happen to me. USD opened my eyes to so many different perspectives. I found my passion for helping others, promoting social justice, and advocating for mental health. Which leads me to where I am today. I am pursuing a master’s degree in Sport and Exercise Psychology at Minnesota State University, Mankato with the hopes of assisting athletes and non-athletes alike with the mental struggles we all face.
- Failure is your biggest opportunity to grow.
While this injury was momentarily physically debilitating, it was one of the best things to happen to me. I had self-realizations as an injured teenager I would have never had as a competitor. My mental and physical strength was confronted and, even though I “failed” at becoming a college athlete, I know I have succeeded in other aspects. Without my failure, I would not be where I am today as a student and aspiring professional.
- Find people who will go to bat for you.
No matter where you are in life, failing or succeeding, it is important to be surrounded by people who want the best for you and are not afraid to tell you when you are being an idiot. My supporters could have told me I was making excuses. Instead, they supported me and my choices to pursue different areas of interests. These sound like obvious qualities in supporters, but they are often hard to come by.
- Success looks different for everyone.
Some people are born to be athletes, some people are born to be nerds. It is not our job to judge what success on each of these levels looks like. It is our job to support others and find our personal success story.
Trust is one of the most crucial feelings we radiate and receive. This sense of confidence can be found between people but also within ourselves. My biggest failure led to a newfound trust in myself, and I am forever grateful for that. I hope to use this self-trust and honesty to improve the lives of others and make a positive impact on those in need.
Thanks for reading!
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” -Maya Angelou