Pretending things don’t exist usually isn’t a particularly beneficial way of dealing with them.
I’ve been writing this blog for a while. Anyone who knows me knows I’m not great at getting things done if I don’t see them as immediately necessary. In college I would have a month to write a ten page paper, and I’d genuinely try to get moving on it in plenty of time. But it’s almost as though I couldn’t make my brain function at the capability I needed it to until that deadline was dancing irrevocably in front of me… the number of midnight due deadlines I pressed submit on at 11.59 fills me with a mixture of shamefulness and pride. So maybe because I don’t have an approving (or disapproving) professor to kickstart the gears in my brain anymore, a lot of my blogs hover on the edges of my subconscious until some kind of trigger brings them to life. But waiting for triggers isn’t usually a great recipe for success in this world.
In this instance, I’ve probably been subconsciously waiting for the trigger that shows it’s all worth it. The struggles, the missed cuts, the hurt and confusion when the practice doesn’t translate into results. When the areas you’ve identified, broken down and improved, don’t have an immediate impact. When all the threads that you’ve so carefully, delicately, meticulously woven together start slipping away uncontrollably and however hard you try and grasp them, it’s like trying to catch smoke. When you’re trying to figure out if you should practice more, grind harder, or brush things aside, or be patient, or trust yourself, or look for help, or have a break, or get blind drunk and come back again when the hangover has subsided (surprisingly to some, I haven’t actually tried that option in the last few months… maybe that’s where I’m going wrong). And then, like for me in Australia, something unknowing clicks into place and you get the sign you’ve been waiting for that it is all worth it.
But by waiting for that trigger I’m doing the exact opposite of what I’m trying to write about. The social media world brings with it a complete reluctance to be real; an unwillingness to show weakness and admit struggle. Part of me doesn’t want to show anything at all on social media, and part of me also understands the reality of professional sport… showing any sign of weakness can be an opportunity for your opponents to get ahead of you. It’s part of being an athlete, of wanting to be the best you can be. But the devastating consequences of living in this virtual, partial reality are becoming more and more prevalent. It’s a glittering magnet that sucks you into the black hole it’s hiding; the bright lights, the sunsets, the coffee art, the bikini bodies and perfect couples and the never ending stories of success. We’re hypnotised by it all, endlessly tapping and scrolling on a screen full of people we don’t really know, if at all. Their slices of happiness.
And yet, everybody struggles. Everybody has doubts and indecisions and times when they feel completely and utterly lost. Publicising your flaws might not feel like the way to become stronger, particularly in professional sport, but it’s about perspective as much as anything. Your weaknesses can be the very same things that make you strong if you look at them in a different way. Sport, more than anything, is the perfect example of how that can be the case. There’s a reason we all love a comeback story, a reason why we all care more about the athlete or the team that’s dragged itself up from the dirt over the one who’s on a seemingly unbreakable winning streak. It reminds us that it’s ok to fail, it’s ok not to have everything all figured out. Accepting that is part of making yourself better.
Maybe deleting Twitter and Instagram and all the rest is the better way to deal with things. But if you’re going to show any of the picture, I strongly believe you should show more than just the highlight reel. If we’re going to build things up – the Instagram posts of excited anticipation, the grateful sponsor plugs, the firm belief that the hard work is about to show up in results – then I think we have a responsibility to use social media to reflect too. Or to at the very least be honest that a result hurts, that you’re frustrated, or angry, or disappointed. Because the youngsters growing up following their stars on Instagram; they need to know that that’s all a part of the process too. In a way that’s more than just “learnt a lot, had a great experience” etc. The GB&I Curtis Cup team just lost pretty heavily to the USA, and while the end result won’t be reflective of the standard of golf displayed by every player, it’ll still hurt them. I know every one of those players will have had an incredible week despite the result… but I also know they’ll be disappointed, they’ll be angry when they read comments about a lack of competitiveness between the two teams. And yet that will make every single one of those players better in the long run, if they acknowledge those feelings. Creating strength from weakness.
Giving people glimpses into your world isn’t just about the finished, filtered picture. It’s about the crumpled up drafts, the torn edges and the scribblings out and the colours that don’t really match when you look at them closely. Professional sport, especially golf, is a minefield of pain and doubt and indecision. But navigating all of that is what makes it so rewarding. That’s what makes it real. And should being real really be the thing we’re trying to hide?