Last year was my year of radical acceptance. Yes it was big, for many reasons (not just the pandemic). I started to see deeper in to my world. One of the quotes I have used for a while now in the work I do is by Brené Brown. Brené writes –
“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy – the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”
This quote resonates with me on many levels and quite literally I did run from my past. Yep after graduating with a Bachelor of Teaching / Bachelor of Health and Physical Education in December of 2001, I left Maitland and moved to the Gold Coast for a fresh start.
Why? Simply, because I wanted to leave my past behind as a professional tennis player. It felt like a burden to carry. What I didn’t know then was there were some deep wounds that I would go on to face.
Recognising My Deep Sense of Unworthiness…
One of those wounds was that I had a deep sense of unworthiness of not being enough. Just so we are on the same page, this is what I am referring to about a lack of worthiness –
- “lacking in excellence or value” or “not deserved” ~ Merriam-Webster
- “not deserving respect or attention.” ~ Google and Oxford Dictionary
- “If a person or thing is unworthy of something good, they do not deserve it.” ~ Collins Dictionary
Yes this lack of worthiness ran deep. Over time, I have discovered a couple of reasons why it was there. One reason was due to the story I had playing around feedback. After most tennis matches, I would listen to feedback about what I could have done better and improve upon. Very rarely did I hear the feedback about what I did well or as Rick Hanson refers to as taking in the good. Looking back, I realised that over time (and with a few other aspects thrown in), this drifted in to a strong belief of unworthiness as a person
During my first 10-day silent meditation retreat, I had a clear seeing in to this belief pattern (and a few others). I also realised on that day I could start to untangle from these beliefs as they were not who I truly was. So – the work began (and still does, just so we are clear).
Starting to Untangle from My Lack of Worthiness…
If you have ever questioned your worthiness or not felt quite good enough, you might be familiar with some of the following thought patterns –
- Who am I to …
- Maybe when I …. then I can … or then I will be ready, valuable, deserving or worthy of …
- I am JUST a ….
- How could I possibly do …
A lack of worthiness looks like someone who is holding back, someone who is staying small, procrastinating, trying to be perfect, play it safe, or someone who is paralysed by doubt or fear.
A lack of worthiness feels like shame, anger, guilt, worry, fear, disappointment or that sense of disconnectedness.
For me, some of the signs of unworthiness that showed up were –
- the imposter phenomenon,
- not speaking up and / or sharing my insights,
- being a workaholic and not listening to my body and its signals,
- hiding from my results as an athlete (even though I know they are not who I am), and
- perfectionism (yes now I reframe that and aim for excellence instead of perfectionism),
My Recent Visit to Raworth…
Last Sunday (11/4/21), I drove to Raworth from Cronulla. I had organised to catch up with a range of people from my tennis days. Raworth was where I lived the majority of my life (from November 1979 until January 2002). Yes, there were a few breaks when I went to the Australian Institute of Sport (1989 and 1990), however it was the place I called home. I also lived and coached for mum and dad whilst I attended university for my Double Undergraduate Degree.
Mum and Dad created a Tennis Academy there and it has now transformed in to Hunter Morpeth Motel and Villa’s (and yes the courts are still there). When I walked in to Raworth on Sunday, many memories came flooding back – the hours on the courts, the games in the front yard with my brother and sister, the eating of the chocolates from the office as well as many, many more. However, the biggest thing for me was the sense of peace and acceptance.
That sense of peace and acceptance was from doing the work over the years (not just last year) and allowing tennis to be what it was. And with that, I could be Jane. I had nothing to prove to anyone – tennis was something I did, however it was never who I am.
First and foremost, I am a human being (as simple and as complex as we are as humans). Sometimes I think that is forgotten in elite and/or professional sport. Yep, I had good days and I had challenging days. And nowadays is no different. Though, now I see each day is part of the richness of a whole and fulfilling life and I embrace the challenges (and yes sometimes, I fall in to the trap of avoidance for a while).
I know I have within me the resilience and coping skills to gently turn towards life / reality instead of running away. However, the biggest gift out of all of this, is that I know I am enough and I do not have to prove my worthiness to anyone. Full stop!
Yes I can own my results as an athlete. I cannot achieve more that what I did – it was what it was. I have realised my worthiness does not live in those things external to me (i.e. the trophies or tournaments I won / lost or the opinions or feedback from other people). My worthiness exists within me and I am enough because I am (just as you are).
I am also grateful to have invested the time walking this adventure and untangling / defusing from those beliefs, thoughts, feelings and behaviours, so I could understand and own my story. As Brené Brown has been quoted as saying “You either walk inside your story and own it or you stand outside your story and hustle for your worthiness.”
Over to You…
I hope this has given you a little insight in to my adventure of life. Yes there are more learnings. However for the moment, this is enough (remember I am an introvert at heart).
If you have any questions, please let me know. Also, if you would like to find out more about the work I am doing in sport and wellbeing, please visit the website Life Beyond Elite Sport. I have also started sharing stories from other athletes who played sport as well as you just never know, their story could be a dot for another person 🙂
Thanks again for taking the time to read and take good care 🙂 xxx