Dealing With “Losses”
Last weekend I competed at the Indoor US Championships and as some of you already know I temporarily reclaimed the American record in the triple jump that I had lost last year…. but then a few minutes later lost the record again! I was super upset and when I was talking to my older sister about the meet days later she said, “You should write a blog about how to handle what may appear as setbacks. I admire the way you handled “losing”. To me that’s what makes an athlete great, not everyone is able to do that or knows how to.”
I replied with laughing emojis because I didn’t think I handled it well at all. I felt like I had responded as anyone else would have or worse than others would have. But after a conversation with her and us dissecting the different parts of my process after the loss, I realized I could write about the various stages I went through. So I am writing this blog in hopes it will benefit others going through different types of “losses.” Everyone has their own process and timeline to dealing with what we consider setbacks, but these were the stages I felt like I went through over a 24 hour period to work through my range of emotions.
1. Be honest about your feelings.
I’m not a person who likes to share everything about how I’m feeling all the time with whoever. If people ask me how I’m doing, how training is going, etc. I will probably say either “good” or “fine.” I have a small group of people that I feel comfortable enough with to share how I am actually feeling, but with everyone else I keep those things to myself. I also sometimes don’t want to burden others with my feelings, so I just work through them myself. So if you’re typically like me and keep things to yourself I would usually say that’s fine, BUT after going through an emotional rollercoaster like I felt like I did after breaking the American record, then losing it, I feel the most important step after this is being honest about how you feel. Keeping emotions and thoughts bottled in is never healthy. Even if you don’t want to tell a person, find some type of release like writing out how you feel or recording an audio message rather than just keeping all of that inside your brain. Talking through my feelings and emotions helps me to be able to move past the loss quicker because I feel like I have released it rather than trying to deal with those clogged thoughts everyday.
2. Lean into your support system
Whether it’s family, friends, bae… whoever you feel is part of your strongest support system and the people who will love you through the ups and downs… this is the time to lean into them. As I mentioned earlier, we are hard on ourselves and can experience extremely negative thoughts during this time. There’s no need to be on social media reading about what people said you did wrong, what you could have done better or comparing yourself to others. Everyone who is NOT in your position will always have something to say. Try focusing on the feedback ONLY from your support system. These are the people who care about you the most and actually have your best interest in mind. Block out all the other noise and focus on the people who love and care about you the most.
3. Be grateful
After I am done emptying out all my thoughts, emotions, etc. I then force myself to think about how grateful I am to be upset about the position I am in. I used to DREAM of making a USA team, breaking the American Junior record, jumping pain free, breaking the 45 foot barrier, winning a NCAA title…much less being the best female American triple jumper in history. At this past US Championships, I jumped almost 48 feet, jumped pain free, and broke the American record. These are things I once prayed for and that I probably thought were impossible for me to actually accomplish. So I think it would be careless of me to take all of this for granted. Yes it is great to keep setting goals, raising expectations, and to be motivated to accomplish more… but I also can’t get to a place where I ignore all of the things I have already been able to achieve and get stuck in sadness due to 1 meet. I am thankful for my personal best, I am thankful that I finished the competition healthy, I am thankful that I am able to make money from my passion, and I am thankful for the extra motivation to keep me from becoming complacent. So I would recommend going back through your “loss” and being intentional about finding things you can be thankful for amongst the disappointment.
4.Remember the Bigger Picture
Amongst most losses there is usually a bigger picture. For me, the US Championships was bigger than me and my competitors. It was about the women’s triple jump in America as a whole. If you look back at the history of this event in America, you will notice that the U.S. has never had a medalist in this event. We often struggle to have several athletes hit the world and Olympic standard while other events will have countless athletes well above the standard. If you watch interviews of triple jumpers, you will often hear the question, “Why do you think the triple jump in America has been so weak?” So having 2 athletes in the same meet be able to trade American records is
B-I-G for us! We are rewriting the history books and creating a matchup that attracts fans and attention to our event. People are excited to see us compete! It’s great for the sport and it’s great for us… so while I may have lost… my loss helped to garner a following and anticipation to the event.
5. Move on
There isn’t much I can say about this step except that it is necessary. Continuous thinking about what you coulda, shoulda, woulda done really doesn’t change anything about the past. Once you address your emotions about the situations, you find the things to be grateful for, and you think through what the experience taught you… MOVE ON. There’s no need to dwell on it and take yourself back through the negative emotions. You can motivate yourself by setting new goals rather than reliving the loss.
6. Stay positive / Celebrate others
Always stay positive knowing that this was one loss, but it doesn’t make you a loser. We all know our competitors bring out the best in us and I am a better competitor today because of my losses. If you can’t find a way to be positive about your loss… try to look at others and celebrate them. Although my meet didn’t go as planned, I was excited to be able to watch my friends compete and support their achievements. Shout out to Mikiah for winning the 60m, shout out to Kate and Kendell for going 2-3 in the long jump (#GoDawgs), and shout out to Olivia for fighting hard throughout her race (#JERSEYYY)! Being able to celebrate them not only improved my mood but also inspired me. “You can always tell who the strong women are. They are the ones building one another up, rather than tearing each other down.”
So whether your “loss” is in a sport like mine, or at work, or with friends, or with a significant other… never forget there is always something to gain from the “losses.”
How do you deal with your losses?