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How many times a day do you apologize? How many times a day do you doubt yourself? How often to do you struggle to accept criticism?

I’m writing this post in hopes that my experiences during my medical training, and my time participating in CrossFit, can be food for thought for those of you who might struggle with self-deprecating thoughts. Hopefully, the strategies I have found helpful for myself can also aid you in becoming more successful both at the gym and in life.

Two and a half years ago, I walked into Big Horn CrossFit searching for something extra in my life. I was feeling incredibly overwhelmed, as all of us have at one point or another. I was a recent college graduate, working two jobs in the healthcare field while I planned out my applications to physician assistant school. My life lacked balance, and many times I found myself being incredibly critical of myself. It’s hard to be surrounded by great athletes and very intelligent coworkers without wondering if you’ll ever stack up. I’ve come to realize that analyzing our weaknesses is an amazing skill if harnessed properly, but what happens when we are so quick to apologize for our mistakes and accept our shortcomings that we fail to move forward?

After many years of stress, both financial and personal, I finally achieved my goal of being accepted into the physician assistant program at Albany Medical College. I began to plan my move across the country to start a new and exciting chapter in my life. I found a CrossFit gym near my new home, and dove into all of my commitments wholeheartedly. And then, just like before, I began to question myself and struggle with my greatest critic: myself. Every day at school, I became painfully aware of just how much I didn’t know. I would go to the gym, and receive more criticism from my coaches. Due to my perfectionistic tendencies, this got really hard for me. I felt mentally exhausted ALL. THE. TIME. And then I decided that something had to give.

I realized that if I kept apologizing for not knowing the answer to a question, or not completing a movement properly at the gym, I was never going to improve. I was never going to be in the right mindset to be truly successful. Sometimes, I even lashed out against criticism, writing it off as an unwelcome burden in my already stressful life. Truthfully, training in athletics and training in medicine both take long periods of diligence to accomplish fully. Anyone who has accomplished a goal will tell you that their dream was not realized overnight, or even in a year, or maybe even ten years.

And that’s when I realized my greatest weapon against my own self-doubt: GRATITUDE.

I began to thank my coaches for taking the time to give me feedback. I would continue to work on small changes, and over the course of time, I progressed. Every time I think that I am comfortable in a lift, or that I’ve lifted as much weight as I possibly can, or that I am great at a particular movement, I realized that I can always improve. Consider that even amazing athletes like Matt Fraser have been working for years to be better athletes, and even they are criticized by coaches on a daily basis. And honestly, that’s amazing. It’s not a sign of weakness to have goals, to constantly be working, improving, and considering areas in which you can improve.

In my professional life, I stopped apologizing for not knowing the answer, or not knowing how to complete a particular procedure. After all, all that really did was make me look incompetent, which I am not. I am merely learning. So now, I ask experts to explain conditions or treatments I don’t understand, I thank surgeons for telling me how to suture properly. If I don’t know the answer, I feel much more comfortable saying that. But I am always happy to do some research and discuss it later on. And every day, I learn more. And every day, I feel stronger. Instead of doubting myself and constantly apologizing and making myself less, I allow myself to learn and I build myself up.

So my challenge to you is this: STOP APOLOGIZING. Start thanking others, and thanking yourself for all the work that goes into achieving a goal.

In thanks and love,
Bree