The most important message that I share with my athletes is that their value is not contingent upon the outcome of a competition. We are all worth much more than gold medals.
This reassurance is not intended to be an easy out or consolation prize for the vast majority who never reach the top of the victory stand.
It’s a promise rooted in Biblical truth and essential for those at the grassroots level, as well as those at the highest levels—especially the ones who are in a position to realistically win a gold medal.
As John Candy’s character said in the movie Cool Runnings, “A gold medal is a wonderful thing, but if you’re not enough without the medal, you’ll never be enough with it.”
On August 18, 2016, I had a front row seat to one of the most important moments in sports history, as Helen Maroulis became the first female wrestler from the United States to win an Olympic Gold Medal.
In doing so, she defeated the most decorated athlete of all-time: 16-time consecutive world and Olympic gold medalist Saori Yoshida from Japan. As one blogger said, Yoshida wasn’t the Michael Jordan of women’s wrestling, she was women’s wrestling.
Sports fans all over the world immediately fell in love with Helen and her story. Her honesty was refreshing and inspiring. She instantly became an American hero.
She had already been a hero of mine and as the one who had the honor of draping the Stars and Stripes over her shoulders I felt a rush of emotion that has no words. I had assured her over and over that she was worth more than a gold medal and now she finally had one to measure. She had reached the pinnacle of sport and did so with the understanding that she was already enough.
“Christ is in Me, I Am Enough”
The mantra that immediately became the headline in newspapers and magazine across the globe was “Christ is in me, I am enough.”
Helen had given herself permission to lay it all on the line on the biggest stage sports has to offer because her identity was secure. She was enough with or without that medal.
The David vs. Goliath story, the tears, the national anthem, the smile—those were things that moved an entire world of sports fans. However, her vulnerability after the awards ceremony is what endeared her to millions of people.
She was open about her struggles with anxiety, fear, self-image and so many things that both athletes and non-athletes identify with on a daily basis. The voices inside our heads have a lot of power.
Instead of listening to those voices, Helen preached to herself.
The words “Christ is in me, I am enough” drowned out the voices in her head that were trying to tell her she wasn’t enough, or that she was scared and not prepared. She recited it out loud over and over, even while competing.
She clung to the things that God said are true about her instead of the perception of others. She took positive self-talk to an entirely new level.
Preach to Yourself
Positive self-talk is a basic mental skills approach used by psychologists and sports psychologists all over the world.
The Total Athlete makes mental skills development a priority in sport. Affirmations of positive self-talk lead individuals to speak to their own potential and create their preferred reality. Research proves that it works.
As Christ followers, the best “self-talk” available to us comes directly from the Bible. Instead of listening to yourself, preach to yourself.
Sports can put us in a position to look to others for acceptance or to find purpose, significance and value. How can you tell yourself that you’re more valuable than gold (medals) in a meaningful way? How can you eliminate the negative chatter inside your head?
Below are fifteen short sentences based on scripture that can be preached as mantras of positive self-talk.
I am Loved (1 Thessalonians 1:4)
I am Accepted (Romans 15:7)
I am Complete (2 Corinthians 12:9)
I am Bold & Confident (Ephesians 3:12)
I am Made Alive (Ephesians 2:4-5)
I am Valuable (1 Corinthians 7:23, Luke 12:24)
I am a New Creation (2 Corinthians 5:17)
I am a Masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10)
I am Justified (Romans 3:24)
I am Redeemed (Ephesians 1:7)
I am Wise (1 Corinthians 1:30)
I am Chosen (Ephesians 1:4)
I am Precious (Isaiah 43:4)
I am Fearfully & Wonderfully Made (Psalm 139:14)
I am Set Free (Galatians 5:1)
When our identity is separate from our performance, we’re free to compete with a joy and passion that cannot be manufactured. It lies within a peace that transcends all understanding (Philippians 4:7).
Preach to yourself in order to combat the pressure of sports becoming your identity or a place to gain acceptance. Who you are is more important than what you do.
You’re already accepted and worth much more than gold!