How to believe in yourself and why feedback is a gift — Learning from Christie Jenkins

August 3, 2021
Christie Jenkins competing in a trampolining competition.

The fear of seeing “excited to announce” posts on LinkedIn is real.

In my 20 years of life, I have never come up with an idea of who I am or what I want to be.

The feeling of incompetence resulting from the uncertainty hit me hard during my penultimate year in university. Seeing my connections on LinkedIn being “excited to announce” that they’re going to be joining some big corporation as an intern stings my heart every time.

It is then I realise what glorious achievements and shining qualifications they have, which I don’t have. I think to myself, ‘nah, they’re out of my league’, and allow myself to be beaten up. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not the type to dwell in jealousy and self-consciousness. Jumping at various opportunities is part of my routine, all powered by the eagerness to explore diverse fields to enrich myself, and well, to be a jack of all trades. I am all the while hoping that one day, I’ll finally discover what I want to be. 

But no matter how hard I work, the self-induced feeling of incompetence always tails behind me.

Until Christie Jenkins shared an eye-opening story about her time as a teenage trampoline athlete, that is. The session — part of Startmate’s Student Fellowship —  brought four paradigms to the usual toxic mindset of beating myself up.

Here’s what I learnt.

1st lesson: Believe in yourself

Often what you believe in comes true in the future. How you perceive yourself is part of your identity, your identity completes who you are. 

In the lead up to securing 11th place in the world as a trampoline athlete, Christie experienced a family crisis, torn ankle ligaments three days before departing, a plane ride with her injury, food poisoning on game day and an impromptu routine.

All this suffering would be seen as unnecessary by bystanders, but she endured it all because she knew who she was. An athlete.

And an athlete does anything they can to win competitions.

2nd lesson: The power of “yet”

You are not qualified for this position — yet.

After endless misfortunes before Christie’s big day, fate chose to gift her with food poisoning hours before her performance. So she could take to stage, her coach had to instantly come up with a doable impromptu routine for her.

Needless to say she was nervous about a routine she’d never done before, but her coach told her she just hadn't done it “yet”. 

The lesson here is never undermine your ability to accomplish something and reject yourself. Instead of saying, “I can’t do this”, say “I can’t do this, yet”. 

You will learn, you will improve, it just takes time.

3rd lesson: Effort over results

I have been and am incredibly afraid of failure and rejection. And this has held me back from countless amazing opportunities for self-growth. 

But listening to Christie has me determined to throw that mindset away.

Seeing her own name on the 11th place of the scoreboard, Christie was not satisfied. But then again, her coach pointed out the fact that her going on stage was already a miracle. Here, the lesson is that focusing on how far you’ve come should be the highlight of the journey, instead of the prize. 

Although being hired is nothing like winning a world medal, the process of self-improvement is similar to that of participating in a competition, the effort and growth are always unexpectedly significant. Especially for students and fresh graduates, since we literally have nothing to lose, the journey of job-hunting brings us value regardless of the outcome.

“The effort is controllable, not the result.” Focus on what you control, and you might just get what you want!

4th lesson: Feedback is a gift

Every response and action made is feedback. Rather than beating yourself up when something doesn’t go your way or when someone doesn’t appreciate your work, treat it as valuable feedback, because it is. 

Christie told us that she was unsatisfied with the scores the judges gave her, but later understood their feedback reflected the small imperfections of her routine. That feedback forged her into a better athlete and helped her win a gold medal a couple of years later. 

A key highlight from this lesson is that all sorts of feedback, whether it’s a compliment or a criticism, helps you improve. I have come to notice that people tend to shun criticism, and maybe even the people who critique them. But at the end of the day, their responses carry great value to your journey of improving yourself…  if you know not to ignore it.

To those out there who are facing the same challenge as I am, stop doubting yourself! 

Stop being scared of rejections, because each of them is a feedback to you and helps pave your way to reaching your goal. There are always going to be things that we can’t do and people better than us. 

If you chose to believe in yourself, then it’s only a matter of time before you become the person you wanted to be.

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