By Mike Gustafson//Contributor | Monday, May 22, 2017
Every Monday, I answer questions from swimmers around the country. If you have a question, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have been swimming on the same team now for almost 8 years. I'm 14 and not a bad swimmer (I have a 1:14.20 in my 100 breast). The problem is, I'm not the fastest and because of that people on my team don't talk to me. Every day I just swim in silence and swim meets are no longer fun. What do I do?
-Should I Quit?
Hey Should I Quit,
When I was a younger swimmer, I envied fast swimmers. I’d watch them at swim meets, and I’d wish I was them. I would wish I was faster and think, “If only I could win the 100-yard breaststroke, I would be cooler. People would like me more if I won races.”
Then, I got older. I realized speed and fastness and athletic prowess has nothing to do with friendships. I assumed, on the outside looking in, if you’re the fastest person on the team, you have the most friends. And while “being fast” often commands attention, the older I got, the more I realized how separate friendships and fastness were.
Being fast doesn’t make friendships. Actually, the older and more experienced I got, I realized: Speed doesn’t create friendships. Being fast doesn’t create lifelong bonds with other people.
You do. Your personality. Your kindness. Your humor. Your good-natured loyalty.
You’re in a tough age right now, Should I Quit. You’re in the age where the fastest swimmers get the most attention. But this attention, inevitably and with time, passes. When it comes to true friendships, don’t worry if you’re not as fast as others. Only worry about being kind. Being yourself. Being a good friend to people. Supporting them. And being polite.
I don’t think you should quit. Keep swimming. But what I want you to work on is this thought that if you’re not fast, people won’t like you.
People will like you because of your personality, not because you’re good at swimming. It might seem as though people don’t like you because you’re not as fast. But this isn’t true. It seems like that because fast swimmers get the most attention. And it’s easy attention. If you win the race, you are watched. You are congratulated. You are high-fived.
But there are a lot of other swimmers on your team who feel the same way as you do, Should I Quit. Everyone feels this way at some point or another. Everyone feels disliked. And we wish, at one time or another, to be prettier, wealthier, faster, stronger, taller, handsomer, smarter…
All we have to be is ourselves.
You are enough, Should I Quit. You are pretty enough. You are fast enough. You are strong enough. You are smart enough. You are enough.
Don’t quit. Instead, quit thinking you need to be someone else. Quit thinking you need to faster to gain friendships.
It can be hard to make friends at this age, but if you are yourself, over time, you will have friendships. Friendships stronger than ones based on fastness.
I hope this helps.