Lindsey Vonn promoting semi-naked pictures of herself can hardly be considered newsworthy anymore.
But a comment she made on NBC’s Today Show while promoting her new book Strong is the New Beautiful is worth paying attention to if you want to understand the psyche of athletes.
Discussing the self-conscious attitude she feels when in “red-carpet” situations, she said “I’m not your typical body type. I have insecurities. I’m very self conscious.”
While posting partially nude photos of oneself seems a like a complicated way to deal with insecurity and self-consciousness regarding the body, nevertheless what Vonn said next was helpful regarding the inner life of athletes.
“I think I’m strong when it comes to working out and everything I do on the mountain, I feel confident in myself. (But) a lot of the time, I don’t feel that confident. I have my insecurities like anyone else. Being on the mountain is the only time I feel 100% sure of myself.”
What an insightful quote about the mental make-up of athletes.
Full of insecurities like everyone else about things that make us feel unworthy or unable to measure up, but able to feel confidence in the field that we have mastered, the one place where we might feel fully confident against everyone around us.
It’s at least one of the major reasons why athletes—especially high level athletes playing beyond college—dread the idea of retiring or not being able to compete anymore. Competition and training became the one place that can be counted on for security, for feeling a sense of wholeness and relative peace.
But even “on the mountain” insecurity has a way of pushing through, especially when faced with an equal or superior opponent, a coach who uses fear to motivate, or the constant threat of someone waiting to take your place.
This raises a crucial question and one people never seem to tire of asking: “Where does true security come from?”
A quick review of the usual suspects—money, relationships, popularity, worldly success, material possessions—reveals, as always, their inability to genuinely produce a lasting sense of security.
They are fleeting, unstable, and gone significantly quicker than it usually takes to acquire them. We strive for years to embrace them as they promise to produce what we’re looking for, then we find ourselves hugging the air as they quickly evaporate in our midst.
Vonn notes that eating well and doing what she needs to do to take care of herself has led to her latest breakthrough and perhaps that attractive lifestyle advice—along with her charm and continued popularity—will sell books.
But what sort of life-anchor will eating well provide when the diagnosis of cancer comes back positive? When relationships crumble around us? When our competency in an area starts to fade for one reason or another? Eating well, like all other manufactured and so-called security providers, is a temporary mirage.
Only the love of God toward us offers a security that transcends our own sense of competence. Only Christ promises something unchanging in the midst of constantly shifting circumstances.
Security in Christ is based on Him and not us. It’s based on Him saying “You are mine, I’ve got your back, nothing will happen to you apart from me. The worst that will occur to your body on this earth will be quickly absorbed by the reality that you are with me forever, regardless of your performance.”
Jesus presents Himself as the only anchor providing stability amidst the waves of life, a truth perhaps even more meaningful for the athlete, whose “security” is almost always tied to the shifting circumstances and opinions that make up sports culture at every level.