“Once I got the gold, it didn’t matter…I felt like the damage was done. I had given 200 percent that day in competition and laid it out on the floor, but I felt I had failed the world. I felt like since the world saw me as being nothing else, then if I failed at being a gymnast, I failed at being a human being.” –Shawn Johnson
In a recent video called “I am second,” the highly accomplished US Olympics gymnast Shawn Johnson opens up about her struggles during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Before receiving her gold medal, Johnson earned three silver medals. However, this was a defeating moment for her.
“I remember being given the silver medal on the podium, the person who did it gave me a hug and told me, ‘I’m sorry,”…I was being given a silver medal at the Olympic games and being told I’m sorry was kind of like a validation in my heart that I had failed.”
However, Johnson had a life-changing epiphany while training for the Olympic trials in 2012 that led her to retire from her professional gymnastics career:
“It’s one of those moments that’s really hard to explain and really hard for a lot of people to understand. But in that one moment, I felt like God was telling me, ‘You’ve been so distraught over this decision. You’ve been afraid of disappointing a lot of people and not being yourself, but it’s OK to follow your heart and put it behind you.’ In that instant, I felt the entire world was just lifted off my shoulders…I think it’s just kind of that validation that there’s always more…God is the answer to everything, and Jesus sacrificed everything on the cross so that when I stood up there and I was given that gold medal, yes it’s a monumental and amazing experience and wonderful thing, but it’s not the end-all be-all. He will always be my greatest reward and my proudest reward.
One of the most important questions you can ask yourselves, is what are you placing your identity or worth in?
When I was growing up, I placed my identity in my soccer career. While I never was close to achieving the success of Johnson, my self-esteem and worth depended on how well I would play. One time I remember I missed an important penalty kick that would depend on whether my team would advance to the championship. Not only did I let my team down, I felt utterly defeated, even though I had played well during the game. Later, when I had knee surgery and my soccer career ended, I didn’t really know who I was. For so much of my life, I had depended so much on my soccer skills for my confidence. There was a lack of purpose in my life and my insecurity started to build up from there.
When we put our identity in anything other than Christ, our confidence will always be shaky. At times, yes, we can feel on top of the world and have an amazing amount of confidence because of our achievements, but it doesn’t always last forever because life is full of uncertainty and there are so many things we don’t have control over. It’s unhealthy to define ourselves by things we do, people’s perceptions of us or people themselves. We are human. We will mess up. People will fail us and we will fail others. However, Christ will never fail us. If you place your identity and trust in Jesus, he will treasure and love you infinitely no matter how many times you mess up:
“…for neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8: 38).