By Mike Gustafson//Contributor | Monday, November 27, 2017
Every Monday online at USASwimming.org and inside each issue of Splash Magazine, I answer questions from swimmers around the country. If you have a question that you’d like answered, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll try my best to answer your question.
I have been reading your column for a while, and I love the articles you write. Your insights have been helpful, and I always enjoy reading "Mike's Mailbag".
I'm a sophomore in high school. I've always trained in a lane with four other girls. Until last year, we were all relatively around the same speed, training the same intervals and racing similar times at meets.
Last year, three of the girls qualified for Sectionals. Though I tried my best to be supportive and happy for them (I was extremely happy for them), it was hard watching the same girls I trained so many hours with make Sectionals easily, while I was struggling to make JO cuts.
I know I shouldn't compare myself to these other girls, but it's very hard for me. We train together in practice all the time, so I don't understand why they seem to swim faster than me.
How can I stop comparing myself to these other girls, and just focus on improving myself? I truly love swimming, and I want to do my best.
Should I talk to my coach about it? I really want to be happy for my friends, and encourage them, but I feel like I have to start improving to match where they are in swimming.
I'm sorry this is so long. Thank you so much for all your advice, and taking the time to help swimmers like me.
Let’s flip this around. Let’s say that you were the one swimming fast in meets, you were the one qualifying for Sectionals, and you were the one breaking personal best times every meet. How would you want your teammates to act?
Would you want them to cheer for you? Would you want them to be genuinely happy for you?
Of course you would. You would want them to be excited for your success.
Sometimes, being excited for other people’s success can be difficult. The reason is, we want that success for ourselves. We want it so badly that we occasionally get jealous when we see others experiencing the success that we want. We resent them. We harbor jealousy for them. We envy them.
The funny thing is, I’ve been in this sport as a swimmer, coach, and writer for a long time. Since I was about seven years-old. In all those years, I have experienced the same kinds of feelings that you have: Jealousy, envy, anger, resentment. Looking back now, I regret those feelings. Not even necessarily because those feelings are wrong — I honestly think sometimes we just can’t help it — but because I spent time and energy fretting about other people when I should have been fretting about myself.
Here’s the beautiful thing about swimming:
On the blocks, there’s only one thing stopping you from success: You. There are no other people. There are no opponents. There are no fluke passes, last-second half-court heaves, errant ball bounces. There is a lane of water, a clock, and you.
Imagine that everything you do in practice is like a bank. You put in deposits throughout the year. An early morning practice here, an extra sprint set from the blocks there. Every time you do something good in practice, you make a deposit. Conversely, every time you worry about another person, every time you feel like you should be beating someone else, your account dwindles.
Stop asking the question, “Why not me?”
Start saying to yourself: “There is joy in joy.” Joy for others’ success. Joy for yourself.
Repeat this, over and over and over again. There is joy in joy. When you see it, acknowledge it. Bask in it.
And soak in that joy and success, because if you let it, it will spread to you, too.
I hope this helps.