“I have heard there are troubles of more than one kind. Some come from ahead and some come from behind. But I’ve bought a big bat. I’m all ready you see. Now my troubles are going to have troubles with me!”
― Dr. Seuss
When I was in grade 9 I had major social anxiety. Those that know me now, can’t even fathom how it is possible, but my biggest hurdle in life at the time was trying to figure out how to make friends. I had no confidence, I was shy and scared of people and the process of making a buddy that would call me up to hang out felt like trying to climb Mount Everest and being five years old and trying to figure how to tie my shoe, all wrapped into one hopeless conquest.
I cried almost every day, and spent a good part of the year every Tuesday at a counsellor’s office, (shout out Maureen Smith wherever you are), trying to walk myself back from the edge of the cliff of social anxiety that my feet felt glued to.
It seemed like there had to be a way, but I had no idea how to make it happen. It grew into a sensation of panic, until I stared at my grade 9 yearbook at the end of the year and wondered, what the hell is going to happen if I didn’t have anything to write in my cute grade 12 write up when everyone uses initials and writes all the inside stories that happened with their friends.
Would my page just be left blank?
This fear consumed me and life just felt like it was out of my hands, and out of my control. Afraid of being rejected in making the first move with people, I just didn’t try, and thus I was alone. For an entire school year.
One day, I don’t know how it happened, or when it happened, but I had an ah-ha moment (has Oprah trademarked that yet?) – There was actually a way that I had control over this. I would focus on being the absolute best person and friend that I could be – and then- I’d put myself out there, this wonderful friend and person, and if people didn’t want to be my friend it wouldn’t be something for me to worry about. My focus would be on being as great as I could be, and rejection could just be let go, and any angst would be comforted in the knowledge that it was their loss, not to have someone so awesome in their life.
But the other thing that I realized in this social transformation, was that a lot of people had space to be blessed with someone great in their lives. Once I started focusing on what I could control and the process of being great, I lost the anxiety, and like a magnetic quality, people started to be drawn to me.
Pretty soon, instead of peace-ing out of the school at lunchtime to walk alone around the neighborhood so people wouldn’t know I had no one to eat with, I was stressed out about having too many friends and would say yes to too many plans on a Friday night. Enveloped in a wave of social madness, life became enjoyable again. An added bonus through going through such a hard time, was to this day it made me be empathetic and open and understanding to anyone in a social setting, and to seek those out that seem most uncomfortable, since I spent many a day as that person.
This lesson followed into other areas of my life when I felt the fear of rejection starting to claw into me, for example with soccer. Instead of worrying about if I would make a team, I just decided that I would do everything in my power to make myself so irreplaceable and such a great member, that if I wasn’t chosen, that I could have no energy expended in anything besides knowing that it was that team or program’s loss and there’d be another team around the corner that I’d be a tremendous asset to.
I bring this story up because I am around a lot of players these days going through the recruiting process. It is a tough process, and for kids these days, getting to a college is the equivalent of trying to figure out how to climb Mount Everest. Rejection slaps its full weight on players and sometimes the burden of being told no many times, makes people question what they are doing and takes the enjoyment out of the process, because there is a high stakes outcome. And some understandably question if it’s worth soldiering on.
My advice for any player going through the recruiting process, or anyone going through life and it’s inevitable challenges is to focus on being the best you that you can possibly be. Every morning, I like to say, we wake up with a vat of energy. We have the privilege of choosing who and what we spend that energy on. And the best use of that energy is always to focus on the positive and also to focus on enjoying the process of becoming the best version of yourself. If you want to be a musician, play your guitar and practice not waiting for stardom to happen. If you’re a soccer player, take a ball out and enjoy and relish those days when you take a little touch and you feel the impact of the 10,000 touches you took to get there.
Because at the end of the day, all you can do is be the best version of you.
And obviously, no one in their right mind is going to say no to that.