Mindset: How I Apply Skills I Learned from Skating to Life

I’ve been trying to figure out this post, and where to even begin with it all. I think obviously skating brought a ton of experience out in the world into my life. I also feel it is so easy as an athlete to look at your sport and think about everything it held you back from. As a kid, I was annoyed that skating kept me from sleepovers with my friends. I felt like it always made me an outsider, I missed out on all of the fun. I missed my high school graduation for a skating event, and slowly as time went by, a lot of normal milestones went right out the window as well. 

Fast forward in my career to the moment I found myself in a therapy chair. As I’m sinking into the plush abyss, I’m looking at my therapist and I hear myself telling her that I feel like I have no actual life skills to take into the “real world”. I have always been SO insecure about how far I’ve come along in life without my sport. While I was off competing at international events and taking on the world in skating, personally I didn’t feel like I was advancing all that much. I felt so inexperienced in real life, and that felt all consuming as soon as I took a step back and didn’t have a distraction every day. I feel like the best way to write out this post is to list my insecurities of qualities I have from my skating experience, and explain how I’m using them as strengths in the real world. Welcome to my dark and twisty mind, enjoy! XO

  1. I over-process EVERYTHING

You will never meet an athlete more in their head than myself. I am hyperaware of any situation I am in, which can be exhausting. It was really helpful in skating because it helped me wrap my head around what I had to do for the day for training, or what I was going to need to pull out in competition. In real life, you don’t have the luxury of just existing for yourself, and you have to be able to quickly react to different demands and expectations. Because I am so aware of my place in relation to everyone else, I feel like I can quickly adjust to be more efficient and helpful. I had to learn to be easier on myself and how I process things. I used to get so frustrated that I needed to think over all the different possibilities that could play out based on my reaction. I had to learn to be patient with myself, but now I am trying to use this as a strength to cater my actions more in a professional environment.

2. I’m a performer, but does that mean I have genuine emotion?

I am great at a dramatic face touch, I can make someone in the rafters feel the emotion in my skating. Sit me down with someone right across the table from me and I panic. Will they pick up on any actual genuine emotion? I always worry that I don’t come across as genuine to people because I feel like I learned emotion not from experience, but from observation. I learned how to emote on the ice by watching people, looking for what love looked like, not just in someone’s eyes, but in their body. People express emotion in so many different ways, and there are a lot of levels to what makes an emotion obvious to someone watching in the stands. Obviously, I could go on forever about this. I started coaching and working with younger athletes and I found that my ability to read and observe emotion has really helped me out in lessons. Nine times out of ten a kid is usually terrified to speak to me the first couple of lessons, so I have to rely on their body language to talk to me. I feel like all of my years of observing emotions for performing helps out in my day to day because I’m able to read people so much more honestly!

3. I need to always be coached

As an athlete, you are usually looking to your coach to direct your career. I would go in and ask Rafael what he would want my training week to look like, or we would decide together what a competitive practice was going to be for me. Essentially, after 22 years of always being told what to do, I feel like in the real world I expect to always have someone directing me. In fact, I would be much more comfortable if I always had someone telling you exactly what to do. As a functional adult, I don’t have the luxury of waiting around for someone to yell at me to go write my blog posts, I need to reach that realization on my own. I surprised myself when I covered my first night of figure skating for the Olympic Channel. My producer came back to talk to me after my first event, and gave me a couple of pointers for things to lookout for, or avoid saying. I went into my next event with those tips in mind, and I felt so much more prepared and capable. I realized there, that while I do like being coached, I also am extremely coachable, which is totally a strength. I can take criticism because I want it, I’ve already reached the point where I can acknowledge that I need to hear it to get better. I will carry that skill into my professional life, and I feel like it will help me improve faster. 

4. I’m weird

Yup, you heard it here first. I’m a weirdo, I’ve never reaaaallly felt like I fit in with most people my own age. I moved 9 times in 10 years as a kid, and missing out on just about every social event in school didn’t help with me feeling like I fit in. I became really insecure about what people thought about me outside of skating. I was always known as “that girl who skates” in high school, and not much was known about who I was beyond that. I really blamed skating for keeping me away from normal life experiences, and I felt like it made it really hard for me to relate to people beyond the ice. While I definitely missed out on a lot, I also experienced a lot more in life. I think I am starting to see the value in all of the moments in skating that I was able to live through. I’m starting to appreciate that a lot more. Maybe I am weird, I definitely don’t really know what to do with new people yet, but I am getting a lot more comfortable just being different. I have stopped caring what people think about me, and now I am unapologetically myself, whether anyone gets that or not. Embracing my own brand of weird and different now is coming across as CONFIDENT, which I have people ask me about all of the time. I’m confident because I stopped worrying about everything skating held me back from, and started embracing the parts of my personality I was able to really develop. I don’t focus on what I’m lacking and that has been so valuable to me. Different is fun, and people are interested in that. 

Other than those insecurities obviously I am a completely perfect human being. Embracing my weaknesses and turning them into functional strengths has been so empowering. Stop worrying about what is holding you back, and turn lemons into lemonade. We are all way more capable than what we give ourselves credit for!