Column: The sky’s the limit


Everyday, as I walked into the gym, I was greeted by the familiar, comforting scent of chalk and dusty, old mats. Sporting my neon pink leotard, I tightened my ponytail, making my way across the floor.  I spent hours at the gym everyday, dreaming of someday making it to the Olympics.  I lived for the satisfaction of sticking a landing, the adrenaline rush before the final tumbling pass of my floor routine, and the liberation of flying through the air as I dismounted the high bar. At school I wore my calloused, rough hands and bruised shins as badges of honor, testaments to my hard work.  At the time, gymnastics was the center of my life.

But one day, everything changed.

Out of the blue, I couldn’t execute the skills that I once could.  It started with my back-handspring.  I would stare at the floor for minutes on end, repeating in my head, “Ready, Set, Go!” but my feet remained frozen on the floor.

Soon, this mentality consumed me.  I began to doubt myself on the beam, freezing right before bending backwards. On the high bar, I wouldn’t let go, afraid I would freak out in the middle of my dismount.

I began to fear myself. I was afraid that if I performed a skill, I would back out in the middle of it.  Unable to do the most basic skills, I felt like a coward, an embarrassment to the team.  I began to dread practice, a continual reminder of the failure that I had become.

After a year, I couldn’t take it anymore.  So I quit.

For years I made excuses.  I told myself, “I just got too busy when I got to high school.” I told my family, “I needed to prioritize academics over athletics.”  But deep down I knew that wasn’t the truth.  I was ashamed to admit that was my fault.  I had fought a long battle against mental blocks, and ultimately I had lost.

We’ve all heard the saying, the sky’s the limit. But how many of us actually take this to heart? Unfortunately, it is incredibly commonplace for us to tell ourselves that we can’t do something.  According to a poll by the Huffington Post, 77 percent of people believe that no matter how much effort they put in, they will never become wealthy. According to another report by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, 54 percent of U.S. women surveyed believe they are not capable of starting a business.

When we tell ourselves that we aren’t physically capable, talented or young enough to achieve success, we become the enemies of our own good.  And just like I did, we prevent ourselves from achieving our goals.

I wish I could say, “Believe in yourself!” and suddenly all of your problems would be solved.  But putting this mentality into practice isn’t that simple.

In reality, getting rid of limiting beliefs takes commitment to a long process of self-reflection.  Psychologists suggest that you make a list of your unfulfilled dreams and write down why you haven’t achieved them.  Only by realizing what is holding you back, can you make any progress towards achieving your goals.

This is much easier said than done.  Psychotherapist and international bestselling mental strength author Amy Morin explains that it is very difficult to identify limiting beliefs, as they are often deeply ingrained in the way that we perceive ourselves.  Personally, it took me three years to realize that I quit gymnastics, not because I was too busy, but because I had convinced myself that I was incapable.

And so I end with this final request: question the beliefs you hold about your own potential.  This takes courage, courage that took me years to develop.  But it will be worthwhile in the end.  Because when you believe in your own potential, the sky truly is the limit.