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Ashleigh Gunning Blog: Be yourself

Ashleigh Gunning
Ashleigh Gunning

Ashleigh Gunning (No. 6) rises for a header, which takes a considerable amount of courage given her injury history. (Photo Credit: Rafu2007 of Flickr)

Being yourself in a world that is constantly trying to change you is a great accomplishment. Each one of us was born with natural abilities, gifts, and talents. Discovering those within yourself and honing your ability to use them to achieve your goals, help others, and enjoy each day just might be the key to experiencing joy no matter where you are!

Through all the travel I’ve done, different places I’ve lived, teams I’ve played on, and people I’ve met, I’ve realized that there are just a couple things in life that we can actually control: our attitude and our work rate. This is true on a soccer pitch, in school, at a job, with our families and in the relationship with one’s self.

When it comes to making the most of your talents, abilities and gifts, a positive attitude and hard work will do more than anything else. It’s the combination of these factors that create a winning situation. The first step is to analyze your abilities—self-awareness is monumentally important and your idea of self should be a continually evolving concept.

Growing up as a football player I was never the tallest player on the pitch; I am an average 5’7” but I had an aggressive attitude when it came to winning air balls and one of my strengths as a player was heading.

Ten years, a few minor concussions, and one major concussion later to see me heading the ball is about as rare as a solar eclipse. I’ve had to reevaluate my strengths and abilities. It is no longer worth it for me to continually put myself in situations where I need to head the ball in games—it’s no longer a strength of mine. I have seen sports concussion specialist, talked to coaches, doctors and experts and I have been medically cleared to play.

But, I’ve had to put my hard work into other areas of my game to make up for my new weakness. The hardest part of this journey has been the effort required to keep a positive attitude. I could have given up, decided that losing a major part of my game was too much to overcome and quit. I could have gotten mad and questioned why I had to deal with this kind of injury. But, I didn’t, sure some days were harder than others, but I thankfully had others around to help me remember that becoming the best version of yourself is an evolutionary process and the act of walking through the process is an accomplishment.

I’ve written before about the idea that winning happens far away from the football pitch. It happens through the daily battle with yourself–making the decision to be better than you were yesterday, to push yourself harder than you have before, and to not let the negative voices have anything solid on which to stand. This can only be achieved through hard work. Going to a point of being uncomfortable, pushing yourself mentally, physically, and emotionally will help you understand who you are. Be confident in that discovery!

Lastly, along with self-awareness should come humility. Being truly aware of your strengths, abilities, and gifts will give you the realization of just how much further you can go, how much better you can be, and how much you’ve been blessed that there is no room for conceded thoughts.

(As a side note, I am NOT under any circumstance encouraging someone to play with a head injury. It should be handled with the absolute most seriousness and care by a professional.)


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