The most important relationship we ever build in life is with ourselves, having the understanding of ourselves is of paramount importance to make the most out of the journey of life. That’s a pretty deep start I know but let me embellish more about my journey, one that I’m still going on today!
Growing up football was my life, it’s all I cared about. Of course I’m not complaining about that, I loved it and still do today. But it was my focus and all of my thoughts and feelings were focussed on it and not much else mattered. I was incredibly lucky and extremely grateful I went on to have a career doing something I loved. I didn’t have a glittering career and certainly wasn’t a world class player but I did make memories that I will treasure forever!
However the thing I didn’t have throughout my career was a real understanding of myself, all my thoughts and feelings were centered around what was going on, on the pitch and I found it so hard to switch off from that. This led me to have really challenging times away from the pitch when I struggled to really process my thoughts and feelings and found it more or less impossible to talk about them to anyone.
I would put uncomfortable thoughts to the back of my mind and hoped they would go away which inevitably they wouldn’t. The reason for this was a lack of understanding of why I felt the way I did, and was too scared to delve into these thoughts further because I didn’t want to show any weakness and admit to myself or anyone else I was struggling.
When I look back now I wouldn’t change any of this as it was part of my journey of self discovery, but a little bit of me thinks about how I could have been more effective dealing with challenges if I would have learnt about myself more earlier. I’m not proud to admit I saw myself and others as weak if they couldn’t just pull themselves together and get on with it. Thankfully I learnt this was a terrible way of thinking.
The world has changed very much in our attitude towards mental health which is a massive positive, but of course more can always be done, but by removing the stigma and improving the understanding has helped so many people recieve the help they require. And it all comes back to that understanding of self, recognizing uncomfortable thoughts and feelings and allowing ourselves to be vulnerable at times in dealing with them.
In my younger days I saw vulnerability as a weakness when in fact it is our greatest strength and allows us to understand ourselves on a deeper level. Everyone has challenges in life no matter who they are and to have empathy to understand that can help us when we face our own challenges. Life is an amazing journey and is full of ups and downs, and on reflection it’s going through the struggles that teaches us the greatest lessons about ourselves if we are open to learning.
I’m so grateful and proud today to be part of the Football Fun Factory which actively promotes positive mental health at our football programmes to children throughout the United Kingdom, and uses football as the vehicle to develop positive life skills and just as importantly lessons about self.