On a recent episode of Couple Things, Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson and her husband Andrew East were talking about things they wish they knew when they were young adults.
I liked the episode as I feel like you can never get too much good advice. And one thing that stuck out to me was, “focus more on how your life feels on the inside than it looks on the outside.”
As an example, Shawn briefly told the story of her experience getting a silver medal in the all-around competition at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. She said that she was incredibly proud of herself and her performance, and felt like she’d done the absolute best that she could. By contrast, in the balance beam event, she won gold but felt like she could have done better.
After the all-around event, when being interviewed by the press, they focused on that second place finish. They asked her what she did wrong, or what else she could have done to secure herself the gold. But in thinking and reflecting on it, she was more proud of her silver than she was of her gold.
I (like many of us) don’t believe I will ever find myself competing at an Olympic level, but there are many aspects of my life where I catch myself believing that if I am not actively succeeding, if I’m not the best, if I’m not perfect, or if my life isn’t outright impressive to other people, I’m doing something wrong.
Because I feel like every time I talk to someone new, every time I sit down to talk to a friend I haven’t seen in a while, I feel like they’re going to react the same way the press did to Shawn Johnson. I feel like everyone is ready to ask me what else I could be doing and why I’m not doing it.
Are you really happy with silver?
But rather than silver they say something about my life that they find dissatisfying or unimpressive or just plain boring. Surely they could pick apart the things I like to do, or the path I’ve chosen to get here, or the biggest dreams I have for my life. Given the chance, anyone can make you feel like you are living a silver medal life.
But if that silver means I’m happy, inspired, content, and hopeful for the future; if it means I’m doing everything in my power to make my life a good one, and my days are filled with people and things that make me feel loved and accepted and grateful then PASS ME THAT SILVER BABY. Because it’s a gold to me!
Everyone’s opinion of what makes a “good life” or a “gold medal life” is going to be different. So it’s a waste of time to try and shape your life into their idea of what is “the best.” We are all actively competing in the “all around” life event, but the only person we’re up against is ourselves. We are the athlete and the judges and the press. We know what it feels like to give our best, and we know what it feels like to do our best. So why give anyone else a scorecard or opinion?
Do what feels good. Try and keep trying. Find what makes you happy. And strive for your own version of success. Focus on what your life feels like on the inside rather than what it looks like on the outside.