Ben Atkins is one of my heroes. Not only does he play for the Pararoos and represents his country at football, but he inspires kids to get out there and do the same, no matter their challenges.
But it is not all travelling the world and glamour. The physical battles are one thing, the mental war is another. Ben recently posted something that hit home for me, full of vulnerability but hope.
He did not write it for Mr. Perfect, but kindly agreed to let me post it as a blog. If you are looking for some inspiration today, this is for you.
I hope one or two kids with Cerebral Palsy that have the same desire as I had all those years ago realise I'm no different to you and you're not alone after reading this. I was in a feeling-sorry-for-myself mood this morning, which coincided with this photo resurfacing, for what feels like the hundredth time.
Seeing the photo made me reflect on how I have grown / haven't grown since it was taken with respect to my physical, mental, spiritual and emotional sides. That kid had one desire, to play soccer for the Pararoos.
With hindsight and the tiniest bit of self-awareness, if I truly peel back to the reason why, I just wanted to be enough. For my family, my friends, my peers.
Honestly, not much has changed since then, other than the fact that on the surface the desire has evolved. I have been lucky enough to achieve that original goal; to play for Australia 70 times which still blows my mind and was even fortunate enough to wear the captain's armband on occasion.
I have won over 10 national titles, have a gorgeous, caring, bubbly girlfriend, deep, authentic friendships with people of all walks of life. I work with a great team, in an incredible service based profession that I can envision being in for a lifetime.
These are all the accomplishments and things that I thought would fill the void at one time or another. Yet at the core of it I still have the feeling of not being enough (just today).
The way I use and attempt to harness that is to turn it into fuel to constantly and consistently strive for more, to grow into the person I am proud of. Deep down I feel like I have a long way to go.
Not in a million years could you convince Mr. Harry High-Pants that he would achieve those goals and have everything he dreamed of, longed for and worked for. I still would not change that feeling of not being enough.
If I could talk to that kid in the picture now I would tell him two things:
(1) Honestly, the successes and achievements will not fill the hole. It will never go away BUT once you realise, it can be your biggest advantage. If you can channel it, accept it and share, you will have everything you want and so much more, but more importantly, you are not alone in having that feeling and there is so much power in sharing that side of you. You think that it will push people away, it will not. It brings them closer than you can ever think it could.
(2) Trying to hide your vulnerabilities will not fix the pain, loneliness and suffering you may feel. Practice showing others, and more importantly yourself, the real you. Cerebral Palsy and all. It is one of the most powerful ways I have figured out thus far to heal those painful feelings, it may feel foreign at first, I know. But just give it a try. I promise it will help.
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