What all of those comments are basically saying is, “You are crazy to think that little ol’ you have a chance to become anything in this world.” I hate those people. (Hate is a strong word, I know, but if there is one thing I can’t stand it’s when older folks do what they can to stifle a young athlete’s dreams because they don’t want them to be disappointed if they don’t make it.)
Becoming an elite athlete, or pursuing anything that is elite, is rare. That’s why it’s…elite. And because it is rare, that means that more people fail than succeed. But what that doesn’t mean is that you don’t even try.
Listen, I know what you’re trying to do and I want to tell you before I go on that if you can shut out the negative thinking of those unmotivated people who come around you and spew that crap, you have a huge advantage. See, those same people will go buy a lottery ticket after work tomorrow hoping that they will somehow win a game that has even worse odds than what it is you are trying to do!
The dream stealers will primarily be divided into two groups. The first group is the naysayers. The second group is the haters.
The naysayers can be your parents, your friends, your grandparents, and other relatives. They can be coworkers and classmates. They are usually close to you on some level and have a deeper knowledge of who you are and you might have been. For example, your mom might say she supports you but she’s still going to doubt your abilities because your room is still a mess or you never empty the dishwasher.
Naysayers want you to stay the same because your efforts to become something exceptional make them jealous. It showcases their lack of effort to pursue their own dreams or it reminds them of their past failures possibly attempting what you’re trying to do.
Now sure, we’d love for those people to turn around and give us tons of support, but sometimes they aren’t capable of making that mental shift. I mean, when you think about it when was the last time you went up to a competitor and said, “Hey, I’m so happy for your success!” No, in the back of your brain you probably want to gouge their eyes out!
And while people like your parents, relatives, friends, and classmates might not be competitors on the field of play, some people are quietly competitive in life. Their jealousy haunts them daily and they walk around miserable. Your efforts remind them of that and it’s important to understand that they aren’t angry AT you but they are angry at something else THROUGH you. Something is nagging at them and you are just an outlet for that frustration.
Naysayers can shoot down your dreams out of love, ironically. Yes, love.
Parents and close relatives are often guilty of this. They will quietly (or not so quietly) shoot down your dreams because…wait for it…they don’t want you to be disappointed.
Yup! That’s right. They don’t want you to be disappointed. This is very common with parents and grandparents. They may say little things like, “Oh, why do you want to do that? You’ll get hurt! You’ll get fat. Lose your girlfriend. Lose your job. Get bad grades.” What they are basically thinking is that you’re going to go after your dream and put all sorts of effort in, and if it doesn’t work out you’ll end up homeless living in a van down by the river. The bottom line is they just don’t want you to be disappointed. To go after something and then fail, because, to them, it’s better to not try at all than to live with that failure.
What they are basically saying is, don’t bother. You’ll hate yourself for the rest of your life. And that’s…not true.
You want to go after your dreams because you will learn more by going for it and NOT making it than if you just sat around on the couch all day. The naysayers want to ‘help’ you by avoiding disappointment. Don’t listen to them. Be polite about it, because it may be mom or dad or grandma or grandpa and you might see them at Christmas, but just know where they are coming from and send them love and get on with it.
The haters are a different crowd. Haters take on a whole new level of dragging people down. These can be close competitors or they can be people you don’t even know! The internet has given haters a platform that many adults never had to deal with when they were young and it’s important to recognize that. From racist remarks, fat shaming, to comments about looks and performance, haters do it all.
But I’ll start by saying this if you don’t have haters you’re not doing enough. Having haters is a sign you’re headed in the right direction. That you’re worthy of being talked about. That you’re worthy of being hated. Because if you weren’t, you’re probably not pushing things hard enough.
Haters sit behind their keyboard in some dark room somewhere and type with their “Internet Balls” and type something they would never have the guts to say in person. I picture these people naked and alone on their couch with their laptops eating Cheeto’s. (There’s a visual you won’t ever forget!)
Haters have nothing going on in their life and want to see you fail so they can feel good about being lazy and goalless. This is even true for your competitors, let me explain.
I had a phone call from a parent whose young daughter was being bullied by a girl ON HER OWN TEAM! Now, these were individual athletes in a team environment. Think, swimming, gymnastics, figure skating, and not soccer or basketball.
It was clear to me that even though this other girl was a teammate, she was a hater. And she had no clear goals of her own. This hater was distracted by her competitor and was worried that she would lose her spot so she did her best to hate on her and try and knock her off her game. My advice to this parent was that if their daughter could stay focused on her goals and learn how to deflect the hateful comments, she would outperform this teammate. The teammate was on track to self-destruct. Her hateful banter was really a sign that she wasn’t focused enough on her own goal and was actually the one getting distracted.
Take the energy from the haters and use it for your own internal flame. There’s no need to fight back or justify yourself. Realize that the haters are dealing with their own internal trauma and are directing it at you. They are jealous. And they have no way to manage that jealousy than to direct it at you. Send them love and stay focused.
The world is full of negative thinking and you will end up hearing some of the worst of it. It won’t be a matter of “if” you hear it but “when,” and the odds are you’ve already heard some of it. Whether your goal is to play in college, get a scholarship, compete professionally, or compete at the Olympic games you need to insulate yourself from the people who are more than willing to say that you can’t. When you have a plan you have armor against the dream-stealers. Consider it your force field of confidence. When you have a plan, you have confidence. And when you have confidence you can make ANYTHING happen.
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Olympian Jonathan Edwards
Founder - The Athlete Breakthrough Blueprint
Olympian Jonathan Edwards is the Creator of "The Athlete Breakthrough Blueprint": The world's only mental performance training program for aspiring athletes with big dreams. Over nineteen years he has worked with athletes who have gone on to or competed in NCAA D1, D2, D3, MCLA D1 and D2, the Olympics, NHL, MLL, NLL, NFL, and others. Feel free to link to this article from your blog and share it with an athlete, parent, or coach who would benefit from these concepts.