The Olympian Inside

The Olympian Inside

The Olympian Inside

We talk about resilience all the time – how we can help our kids develop it, how we build it within ourselves, how we can use our failures as building blocks. I think one of the hardest parts of parenting is having the confidence to be in charge and guiding our kids, while also letting them see our cracks, our failures, the learning we’re still going through as adults. Admitting “I don’t know” or “I messed up” to your kids can be both enlightening and unsettling to them. But I think it’s the most genuine, honest way to be a mom.

Examples and teachable moments of failure and resilience can be internal and small-scale, or larger-than-life. My family has been glued to the Winter Olympics coverage this February. It’s one of the most current, clear-cut examples of individual and collective resilience in the very public domain.

The first Olympic Games is traditionally dated to 776 BC. That’s almost three thousand years ago!! Even the resurrection of the games in 1896 to create the modern Olympics was over a hundred years ago. How many traditions span so much time and encompass so much of the world – men and women and children, every country, every race, every creed? I know the Olympics coverage we’ve been watching throughout February is shaped by the media, but the emotion and drive is all real to me. The hundreds of individual athletes and thousands of people behind the production of the games are true examples of indominable spirit challenging failure, adversity, and controversy again and again.

To continue, the Olympic tradition has needed to be flexible. It’s changed and shifted many times over. Types of sport have been added and deleted. Increased technology has been integrated into the pageantry of the ceremonies, the training of the athletes, and the execution of each competition. The format of the games has changed from every four years to alternating seasons every two. Soon there may be only a few official Olympic venues throughout the world to contain the costs and overbuilding issues associated with hosting. Yet we still go on with it. This is resilience on a macro level.

The athletes themselves embody resilience on the micro level. I know they get to the games through countless hours of pain and practice, not to mention first having the right body types and talents for their sports, and second having crazy levels of support on all sides. But really, Olympic athletes get to the games via determination in the face of failure. Again and again and again. Without that, all the other stuff doesn’t matter at all.

Then they’re there, being watched by the world. And what I’ve noticed most while watching the 2018 winter games is how often these athletes continue to fail. They’re the best in the world, they’ve beaten out hundreds to get to PyeongChang. And they’re STILL messing up, even at the top of the world. Even there, these competitors fall down, they crash, they slide out, they skid.

“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm,” said Winston Churchill.

We’ve been watching the prime example of this for two weeks. What could we learn from it?

That it’s okay. Because after these amazing athletes fall down, crash, slide out, skid, mess up, they also get back up, and smile, and move on. They’re not afraid. Or, they are, and they keep getting back up anyway. If they can mess up there, they can mess up anywhere.

I’m more than sure there are lots of tears, anger, yelling, accusations, anxiety, depression, and everything else behind the scenes. I know sometimes there are lost seasons. Recovery isn’t always TV instantaneous. But these athletes wouldn’t be where they are if they weren’t able to get back up and smile, to recognize no other alternative but learning from their mistakes, mistakes made with the whole world watching. How many things in this world are comparable to the strength of that kind of spirit? Most of us will never complete in the Olympics, will never be on that world stage. But we can all find the Olympian inside.


About our Blogger: Elizabeth Dougherty is a freelance writer in Chester County, Pennsylvania. Her blog, Plan Q, chronicles real, everyday experiences and viewpoints — funny, stressful, tearful, mundane — and how they all tie together to define our lives. She aims to make her readers laugh, cry, feel, think, and wonder. That’s what writing and reading do for her, and if she can pass on any of that, then all the twists and turns that whip her right past Plans A through P and land her at Plan Q are more than worth it!  Visit Plan Q at or connect with her on Facebook.

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