I remember receiving the award like it was yesterday.
“Fastest Pitcher,” “Most Home Runs,” “Best Outfielder”—we had reached the end-of-the-season award ceremony for our softball team, and as the announcer called out each award, I anxiously squirmed in my seat, wondering if I would be honored with a trophy of my own.
My team consisted of some of the most talented athletes on the field. They had brought our team to first place and everyone was brimming with excitement. But to walk away with some personal recognition would be the ultimate icing on the cake.
As the announcer got down to the last award, I took a deep breath and held it.
“And, the award for Most Improved Player goes to…”—he called my name. Relieved, but in disbelief, I stood up to receive my trophy. I had never won anything in my life before.
Standing in front of my teammates that day was a huge stepping stone in my journey toward self-confidence. Growing up, I was a shy girl who typically went unnoticed. On the field, my shyness translated into hesitation when I threw the ball, fear of swinging when it was my turn at bat, and letting others catch the ball even when it was coming my way.
So how did I become the Most Improved Player?
The simple answer is that I was terrible at softball. But, no one ever wins an award for being terrible at something. Instead, I worked to get better. While I failed to catch the ball most of the season and never hit it past second base, I continued to try my best, despite making a continuous fool of myself. And, eventually I got better.
This got me thinking about how many of us give up too easily, especially when we don’t receive immediate success.
We are raised in a society that promotes instant gratification. If we look at Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other social media sites vying for our attention, we can see how they often promote fear, insecurity, and competition. We experience these emotions when our modern-day indicators of success—likes, comments, and retweets––have not been satisfied.
And, even if we do receive immediate success, we still feel dissatisfied. This happens when we allow ourselves to get caught in the loop of elation and fear. Elation for every like or comment we receive and fear when we find ourselves in their absence. We become hooked, like a drug addict waiting for our next high, insatiable and ultimately dissatisfied.
But, if we can keep in mind the big picture and look toward improvement rather than immediate success, we can navigate our lives with a greater sense of peace. This requires patience and discipline, but we will be rewarded with a deep level of faith and confidence in our abilities.
When I played softball, it was tough to show up every day and repeatedly make the same errors, but it was more important that I finish the season rather than judge my performance each time I showed up for practice or a game. Eventually, I caught a ball in the outfield, preempting a home run and taking out multiple players heading for home base. Hearing the excited cheers from the crowd, I felt an incredible degree of faith and confidence in my abilities.
Receiving an award that honored my growth was extremely significant. While it was still an indicator of success, it didn’t come immediately and required me to stay the course until I showed improvement. In the end, not only did I walk away with a hard-won trophy, but I gained a valuable lesson.
It has been 15 years since I nervously accepted the award for Most Improved Player, but I continue to strive for this title every day.
I am perpetually, and sometimes painfully, finding myself in new and uncomfortable situations. And, while I am usually the most inexperienced person in the room, I don’t allow this to dissuade me from making a complete fool of myself in hopes of learning something new. Instead, I use my ineptitude as fuel to see how much I can grow and stretch. Because isn’t that what life is about? Stepping beyond our comfort zone and challenging ourselves until we see our best?
I encourage all of us to adopt the Most Improved Player mentality and strive toward growth rather than immediate success.
We can start by unlearning some compulsive habits, like constantly checking our phones for likes and comments after we upload a photo or write a clever post. Instead, we can work to develop trust in ourselves and have confidence in our decision to share something publicly.
If our post does not receive the projected number of likes, I challenge us to stand by it and not question our judgement or let it affect our sense of self-worth. Maybe it didn’t resonate with others the way it resonated with us—this does not invalidate our feelings. Moreover, I hope that we can refrain from deleting it. I know too many people who have deleted something because it did not get the reaction they wanted. This is one small way we can affect change and redirect a mind that is constantly seeking outward approval.
The more we learn to develop faith in ourselves and peacefully work toward our goals, the less likely we will be to let fear insecurity, competition, and a lack of immediate applause stop us. It is my hope that we stick to whatever we are working toward, because one day we will hit it out of the park!
Author: Mudra Love
Editor: Nicole Cameron
Copy Editor: Travis May
Social Editor: Yoli Ramazzina