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I Stopped Playing Sports Because I Shut Down Completely When Someone Yells at Me

·409 words·2 mins

I don’t talk about it much, but I used to really enjoy playing sports. I was a good little athlete once upon a time. Part of why this changed had to do with puberty and what happened to my body. I was cursed with a shape that made high-impact activities physically painful — and socially embarrassing.

I can still remember rounding the bases, playing on my little league team, only to find out that my male teammates had decided my old name was void and that my new name would be “Jiggle Jiggle.”


That was difficult enough on its own.

The other big factor was that coaches yelled a lot. All of the time — but particularly when you weren’t doing a great job. And while being yelled at seemed to motivate a number of my peers, who would be seemingly energized by it and pull out a greater performance, my reaction to being yelled at was less helpful.

I’d freeze up. Pull into myself.

That’s always been the case off the field, too. If I’m overwhelmed about something, and someone else gets frustrated and starts yelling at me, I’ll shut completely down. When I get overwhelmed, I can’t even handle criticism, let alone process it and take the correct action from it.

So unless it’s an emergency, and say, I’m standing next to something that’s going to light me on fire unless I move or something similar, it’s generally not worth your while to yell at me. What you’ll get is someone who can barely function.

I know part of it has to do with how I was raised (in a strict, punitive authoritarian home). And another part of this is likely due to my stress response. Fight, flight, freeze, or fawn.

As I’ve written before, I’m generally fawn or freeze. Neither of which vibe well with how most coaches operate.

Sometimes I wonder if I’d been more a fighter — if I’d responded to criticism with “oh well, I’ll show you!” and pushed myself to the limit — if I’d have kept playing team sports.

And if that had happened instead of being an artsy weirdo, would I be a different person today? More competitive? Barbie-esque? One of the popular kids who torment everyone else? A cheerleader mean girl who honestly felt like she was better than everyone else?

Would I have competed in beauty pageants? Gone on the Bachelor? Sold slimming teas on my Insta?


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