This quote from James Baldwin speaks very powerfully to coaches, parents and athletes. Are you listening? If you have a fear, a problem, weakness or shortcoming, personally or professionally, you will never be able to get beyond it until you’re willing to honestly face it!
Many of us play the ostrich when it comes to our own vulnerabilities and weaknesses. We bury our heads in the sand in hopes that the problem will miraculously vanish. Some of us do this by mentally and physically avoiding the problem or fear every chance we get. Others pretend that there is no problem by denying reality and kidding themselves into believing that everything is OK.
Athletes do this by refusing to accept constructive criticism and feedback from coaches and teammates. When anything goes wrong they simply blame others, refusing to believe that there was anything lacking in them. Coaches do this by thinking that they are the “experts” with all of the answers and that coaching is merely a one way street where information only flows from coach to athlete. These kinds of coaches “know it all” and are unwilling to honestly examine their behaviors in the face of contradictory feedback from other colleagues, parents or athletes. Parents do this by similarly refusing to own their comments/behaviors and look at the potential negative impact that they might be having on their son or daughter. They hide behind the highly defended, “don’t tell me how to raise my kid” position.
What makes us so afraid to face ourselves and confront the truth? Perhaps the macho myth of needing to appear “strong” fuels a lot of the male population in this regard. To truthfully acknowledge that you were at fault, are not good at something or have fears means that you’re “weak.” In reality, those who own their shortcomings and fears and then do everything in their power to fix them are far from weak! Others’ refusal to honestly look at themselves comes from low self-esteem or a poor self-image. When deep down you don’t feel very good about yourself, it’s emotionally too painful to be criticized or acknowledge that you might not be good at something. So instead, you angrily fight against or close yourself off to these kinds of “assaults.”
Whatever your fears are, they can not begin to change unless you are willing to start to move towards, rather than away from them. While you can’t necessarily change all of the problems and shortcomings that you face, you have absolutely no chance at all of changing any of them until you’re willing to garner the courage up to face them.