For all those who attach their self-worth to their ability to do thrusters, pull-ups and muscle-ups…

A couple years ago I found myself in a dilemma: Whether or not I should keep competing in CrossFit.

As much as I loved, and still love CrossFit, there was a big part of me that was never truly satisfied with my results. No matter how fit I became, there was always an element of dissatisfaction.

From 2011 to 2014, I assumed I felt this way because I hadn’t yet achieved my ultimate goal of qualifying to the CrossFit Games. And I thought if I ever did qualify, I would forever be satisfied with myself. Would forever feel worthy.

But that’s not what happened: When I did finally qualify to the Games in 2014, I was ecstatic, don’t get me wrong. It was an unbelievable feeling that I’ll never forget. But did it bring me the peace and satisfaction I was after? Not even close. Suddenly I was surrounded by the most fit women in the world in Carson, essentially getting my ass kicked in front of thousands of people. If anything, it only increased my feeling of unworthiness.

 

My 'I survived' post-Games drink

After years of competing in various sports and never truly being satisfied (though there have been moments of great elation and satisfaction), I figured it was the competition part of the sport that was the problem. So last year, I took a year off competing. I called it a retirement, but I was never 100 percent sure whether I'd go back to competition or not. I spent a lot of time tackling one of my biggest weaknesses instead—running. It was a good year and I got a lot out of it, but did I get to the end of the year and feel satisfied and peaceful?

No. I did not.

So then I got really confused. Competing led to feelings I didn’t like, and not competing didn’t help my cause, so what was I to do?

I changed my focus again, worked with a mental coach in the fall, and had my heart set on competing again this year.

Recently, though, I realized my dilemma of whether or not to compete didn’t have anything to do with competition itself. I realized the reason I have always felt like something was missing is because I have never been able to detach my self-worth as a human being from how good I am at CrossFit.

Truth is, this has been the case my entire life: Success in sport = worthiness. I know it sounds ridiculous (in fact I’m shaking my head and laughing as I write this) that somehow being good at a sport makes me more desirable, but it’s so deeply rooted within me it has become hard to reverse. 

I do NOT choose my friends based on their fitness level. And truth is, most of the people I find interesting to hang out with aren’t the most fit people I know. Yet for some reason, my heart has always felt it necessary for me to be as fit, or as good at a sport as I can be, to somehow be worthy.

Something deep within me still thinks the more weight I can lift, the more likeable I somehow am...

It became clear that until I learn to detach those two things, I am never going to find what I’m looking for—regardless of whether I compete or not.

An event in the last six weeks has helped me start the process of detaching fitness with self-worth.

I have been recovering from being in a bad car accident I went through in Haiti at the start of November, where my foot got crushed under the wheel of a car.

I was instantly reminded of the fact that fitness is anything but a permanent feature in our lives. That fact is something I had almost forgotten, since much of my life (and many of my thoughts) have been consumed with becoming fitter in the last few years. And generally speaking, I did continuously get fitter—just never fit enough to feel satisfied apparently. Needless to say, suddenly being bound to a wheelchair and then reduced to crutches and eventually walking with a limp kind of reminds you how quickly fitness can be taken away from you.

Feeling myself essentially becoming less fit each day, each week, has been incredibly hard on the mind. But it has also given me a lot of time to reflect. To reflect and to accept. To accept the fact that I’m not getting any fitter right now. Accept the fact that I am actually getting temporarily weaker. Accept the fact that I probably won’t be cleaning 200 lb., let alone more than that, for a while. Accept the fact that I can’t hit PRs right now.

And not just accept it, but to be OK with it. I have finally started to really believe my fitness level really isn’t a reflection of anything all that important. This isn’t to say health and fitness isn’t still important to me. It just means the pressure to get better all the time has been lifted from my shoulders. Realizing fitness is just a temporary state that will ebb and flow depending on what’s going on in my life has really freed me and brought me peace.

Will I compete this year? I don’t know yet. But it doesn’t matter. What matters for me is realizing the thing that has been so important to me for so long is actually quite meaningless. I know that sounds kind of depressing, but it’s not. This realization has brought me the peace and freedom I needed so that fitness can find a healthier place in my life.

 

Peace and freedom...