Erin Maidman: Confidence and fear

Erin Maidman

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“It’s common for athletes returning from an injury to lose confidence.”

That’s what they told me when I broke my leg. I thought they meant that I might be scared to press on my right leg, or I might not feel comfortable on my skis. And, from day one, neither of those things have bothered me. So, I figured that I had nothing else to worry about.

I was wrong. I didn’t realize until after this last race how greatly my leg injury has affected my confidence. {sidebar id=65}

When I returned Sunday night, I sat down at my computer and watched old videos of myself skiing. I was amazed. In those videos, I was fiery, driven, and fearless. You could tell by my body position that I was in it to win it. I made countless saves, and risky moves that sometimes came back to bite me. I knew that I had to risk failure, and risk crashing, if I really wanted to do well. It was very strong skiing.

Then I watched the video from this weekend’s race. I didn’t see that same ferocity or determination. I looked tentative, hardly risking a single turn. Last year, if I started to get in trouble in the course, I would just keep charging, trusting that I could save the run and finish. This year, I immediately put on the brakes and get back in control. I stay in my comfort zone. I never used to do that.

I’ve denied my confidence issues until now. I had to admit to myself the reason for suddenly becoming a tentative skier. I don’t want to risk crashing and therefore risk getting hurt again. I broke my leg in such an unexpected way and on a run that I’ve skied hundreds of times, so I’ve been cautious during nearly every run. I’m having trouble believing that I am safe on my skis, and that I am capable of skiing hard again. I’m not entirely confident in my abilities anymore.

Watching that video made me remember, though, how great it feels to get to the bottom of a run knowing that you gave it everything you had. I never want to give less than 100 percent when I ski. I am a hard worker and a good skier. I work too hard to be afraid of crashing. Fear is holding me back from my true potential, and I refuse to let that happen any longer.

From now on, I will get out on that hill and ski harder than I’ve ever skied since I was hurt. I will swallow my fear and trust myself once again. I know that I am fully capable of handling my speed and skiing safely. I don’t have to be afraid anymore.

Conquering my fears is probably the hardest lesson skiing has ever taught me. I’ve learned that it’s okay to be afraid, but it’s not okay to let that fear define you. They only thing standing between me and the aggressive skiing I desire is myself and my fear, and I have control over both of them. It’s all in my head.

I can apply this lesson to every part of my life, because the reality is we have control over ourselves in every way. I may not be able to control when I crash, or when I get injured, or when something bad happens to me. But I am able to control how I react to the setbacks, and that’s all I need.

Breaking my leg is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to go through so far. I’m young, so I know that I will have to face other hardships in the future, but now I understand how to approach them. I’m almost glad that I broke my leg, because I have come out of it both physically and emotionally stronger. I am better prepared to handle the other hardships that come my way, and I have newfound confidence in myself.

For now though, I’m just going to focus on simply having fun again. I love to ski; I refuse to let fear take that away.

I hope that, from now on, I start looking more like the hardworking, aggressive athlete I know I am.

What do you think?