Authentic resilience in high performanceWhat sucks about my atopic skin issues is that it is a pain that everyone can see. My face and eyes are swollen, accompanied with red, itchy and burning patches – a physical manifestation of a struggle. It’s a look that makes me look like I am on the brink of tears, drank 2 weeks in a row without having a sip of water, or that I have a newborn that keeps me awake and I also ate a bowl of nuts as a nut allergic haha..

This change in my appearance has also changed the way I interact with the world. I have found myself avoiding eye contact, my head bowed more often than not, shying away from places filled with people, video calls, social media, and photographs. Or if there is a pic.. I am more worried and rather make faces than try to smile and look “pretty” when I know I won’t be.

The reason behind all this? I still fear judgment in some form – not from others as much, but from myself. I’ve caught myself believing I don’t look the ‘right’ kind of way. I have always been hard on myself and I still am. Loving yourself is hard when you don’t look like yourself. Even tho I have learned to love me better and more, especially the mind and heart I have, and I am so much more accepting towards my body, there are still some sharp corners that have been a little spiky lately.

But – this isn’t a plea for unconditional self-love in the face of adversity and I don’t want to make this about “you should love yourself however you look like” and “you are so beautiful inside and out” kinda topic.

This is an acknowledgment that something isn’t right and what I would usually do in this case, what are the patterns and learned behaviours I had in sports in situations like these. So let’s keep going if you are up to reading a bit more? I think that if you have had injuries, skin problems, body image issues etc., you might want to continue reading.. 🙂

Unmasking the Challenge: The Intersection of Skin Health and High Performance

So the fact is that my skin is reacting, screaming for attention, and to my nightmare – it is unable to be concealed. Unlike other pains or ailments that can be hidden or masked with a brave face, this is different. It’s there, visible for all to see, and I can’t just brush it off or bury it. I showed up on my virtual event without make up last week, looking pretty unprofessional and I was scared to be judged as unprofessional.

That is something that we have heard and seen on the social media too. If a female coach for example shows up without make up, there often are comments about not looking professional etc.

And you know, I’m the girl who’s worked on embracing vulnerability, who’s shared her previous struggles with sports, eating, body image, expectations etc. on social media. Yet, in those moments, I was suffering in silence when they happened, able to shut the world out and navigate through my troubles alone. That’s where my strength lies – in enduring and overcoming adversity privately. My motto, honed from years as a pro athlete, has always been “Work hard in silence. Let success be your noise.”

But now, my pain is on a freaking display, and now people ask how I am, give advice and can clearly see that it’s not going great – I’m not used to that. This makes me want to hide. I also want to mention that I understand that skin issues are not life-threatening, and I am grateful for my overall health. However, this experience has made me again more aware of my emotions, thoughts, and behaviors surrounding this persistent issue.

Redefining High Performance: The Power of Authentic Vulnerability

What makes this journey intriguing is its parallel to the sports world, where pain and struggle are often masked by a facade of strength. We’re champions at hiding our battles, maintaining a stoic front while privately crumbling under the weight of our struggles. The long hard days are finished with the silent cries in the shower, tears washed away with the drops of water. Then we go to sleep and get ready to get through another day.

It’s a narrative celebrated in society – the glorification of perseverance and resilience, also in the face of visible pain. I’ve been there too, priding myself on playing through pain, feeling invincible. It made me feel more confident and trusting towards myself – if I can perform under these circumstances, I can trust myself to get through difficult things in the future. And I would claim that that’s not a horrible thing.

However, there’s a fine line where perseverance turns detrimental. It happens when we stop listening to ourselves, ignoring the cries of our body until it can no longer bear the burden. When we keep ignoring the pains long enough, that pursuit of that kind of strength and resilience will lead us to a breaking point eventually, demanding us to stop for real. Often, the stop takes more from us than we ever realised we bargained for.

From Struggle to Strength: Embracing Authentic Resilience in Adversity

This time, I refuse to follow that path. I choose to acknowledge this struggle, work on my vulnerability, not see this as a sign of weakness but as something guiding me towards a deeper understanding of myself. I’m learning to be visible in my vulnerability, to accept that being seen in my moments of struggle is not embarrassing, but a different kind of strength.

I encourage you to join me in this journey of self-awareness and growth. You deserve to be seen and heard, in both your moments of greatness and vulnerability. Let’s redefine what it means to be strong, not by how well we hide our struggles, but by how we face them. If you have some struggles you have had lately, write me about them. I know the biggest learning lesson is just to admit the struggle, whatever it is, and share about it. That’s where we all start.