I tripped over a pretty significant life-learning in 2015.
When I arrived back in New Zealand after racing at the World University Games in Korea something strange happened, everyone congratulated me.
See, at the Games I made my first ever individual international final in the 50m butterfly. The result of that one event was what people back home had heard about, courtesy of a few news articles.
No-one had any idea that I pulled out of the 200 freestyle because I was swimming so poorly.
No-one had any idea that my 100m freestyle was the slowest time I had produced in over 3 years.
No-one back home saw me sit by the warm down pool, emotionally wrecked. Embarrassed of my performance, entirely shattered both mentally and physically.
No-one back home saw me empty my goggles every 50m as they filled with tears. Salty droplets squeezed from my eyes because of the emotional cyclone of failure, bewilderment, insecurity and exhaustion blowing through my brain.
I was blindsided by positivity that first week at home. Congratulations flooded in. It was during that week that I realised how true all those sayings are. The ones about focusing on the positives and letting go of what holds you back or anchors your sorrow.
“Live life to the fullest and focus on the positive” etc etc.
Of course anyone on the inside circle of swimming knew exactly how I had performed, but what I so often forget is how minuscule that circle is. It represents a snapshot of fanatics which does not include the majority of my friends, my family, my workplace.
I’ve witnessed this resilience to acknowledge achievement often in New Zealand.
Most kids who receive a medal at a swimming event will rip it from their neck before their foot even finds the floor.
When people asked how the competition went, my first reaction was to discuss how I pulled out of the 200. I ripped the ‘medal’ off by choosing to highlight my worst event. Why not celebrate that 50m fly?- because I have been bought up in this circle to believe that it does not count. It is not worthy. Simply because it is not an Olympic event.
But you know what, I’m not an Olympian. I tried to be an Olympian. I failed.
I’m sick of measuring myself against the towering stick of the Games.
And I don’t think I’m the only one using the wrong stick to measure themselves.
I’ve decided to get real. To celebrate my own successes. Not by flaunting it, framing it and shoving it in front of people, but rather internalising the warmth of pride that spreads from the acknowledgment that I have achieved something I have never done before.
To date that 50m butterfly in Korea remains my only ever individual international swimming final.
To anyone reading this, pick up a pair of rose tinted glasses and let the light of your achievements, your attributes and your positivity flood your vision.
It is genuinely remarkable how much changes when you chose where to focus and how to respond to outcomes.
Be proud of success and motivated by failure.