opinion

"The moment I learned we can't always be the best at everything we do."

Like many other Australians over the past few days, I’ve been watching the Olympics.

And I watched, on the verge of tears, when sisters Cate and Bronte Campbell failed to win a medal in their two preferred swimming events.

I was horrified when Cate described her performance at the Olympics as “the greatest choke ever” and begged the country to still be proud of her performance.

‘Is winning gold the only thing that matters?’ I thought.

‘Is coming fifth, or sixth, or eighth, or whatever in an Olympic final not a huge achievement on its own?’

I watched the commentary unfolding on social media about the Campbell sisters, and other Olympic ‘disappointments’ from other events and countries. Did the girls’ poor performances and apologies mean those who did win gold, silver and bronze were less deserving? After all, they made an Olympic final as well, and pulled off the performances of their lives to break records and stand on the top of the podium.

Those two Olympic finals had eight competitors in each, but only one of them could be the best. And sometimes, that person can’t be you. Maybe it’s time to accept that fact.

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Whether you’re a world record holder, a reigning Olympic champion, or even just a regular person who’s been heralded as ‘the best’ at singing, dancing, writing — anything — it can be a hard thing to realise.

I remember the day I was told I would probably never be the best at anything ever again. It was my very first day of my journalism degree. Our lecturer made us all stand up, and as she said statements like “I was school captain”, or “I got the top marks in my class”. Those who didn’t agree would sit down.

In the end, there were about five of us left standing. We were told that university – and life – was about to get really, really hard.

That we were in for a rude awakening when we realised that we were now very small fish in a very, very big pond and would probably never be the best at anything we ever did for the rest of our lives.

That sounds harsh, I know. I thought so at the time, too. But as I grew older, and yes, struggled through uni with not getting things quite right a lot of the time, and seeing others get better results than me, I slowly began to understand.(Post continues after gallery.)

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I’m not the best at everything I do, and that’s perfectly fine. Because here’s the most important thing: knowing you won’t be the best shouldn’t stop you from trying to be YOUR best. That sounds horribly motivational and very Tony Robbins, but it’s true.

Sometimes my best very well could be THE BEST, but most of the time, it’s not.

And I shouldn’t waste time feeling sorry for myself when things don’t go my way, because I’ll never be the best at that either. I tried, I failed. Sometimes, things just suck.

It’s obvious that I’m no Olympic champion. I’m not even remotely close (unless there’s a gold medal on offer for ‘Person Who Gets The Same Seat On The Bus Every Day’ or ‘Best Defence Against Decaf Coffee Shaming’, in which case I am a definite shoe-in for both).

I’ve never experienced the disappointment of making it into a final, leaving the blocks as favourite, and failing to make the top three.

But I have experienced regular, everyday disappointments. I’ve experienced the feeling of thinking I was going to do better than I did, or was going to be better at something than I was. I’ve thought I was the best, only to see someone excel far and beyond anything that I was ever capable of (I’m looking at you, Year 5 Spelling Bee champion…)

So Cate and Bronte, you tried. Maybe you didn’t feel like you tried hard enough or tried your best.

But you weren’t the best on the day, and that’s perfectly okay.

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