When I first started competing, I really had no plans on taking it further than the experience. Once I was picked up by RedBull, I felt responsible to live up to the brand’s elite list of podium finishers. Honestly, my RedBull family had no intention at all to push me to make podium finishes or even compete. They were always supportive regardless of my goals.
Growing up, I was always compared to other girls, cousins, relatives, and class mates and that would always make me feel insecure, not being good enoughor even up to societies standards. I knew I was always different in many ways but I never embraced it. Being different means you aren’t acceptable to people’s standards and when you’re growing up a need for acceptance is just as important as the need for the air you breathe.
At my first time competing at Battle of the East in Kuwait, the experience was mind blowing. I had never experienced such vibrations and energies in my entire life. I hadn’t prepared for it, I just wanted to give it a try. With every workout I had gone through, I just kept looking to my right or left wondering how in the world do these girls finish these workouts so fast and easily and I feel like I’m suffering through. I was so inspired by their efforts that I had pushed myself so hard I wasn’t able to walk for days.
Yes, I did place podium and that is when I signed my contract with RedBull. It wasn’t by luck, it wasn’t by default because some other girls withdrew because of their injuries, but that is how I defined it and that is how people started to see it. The next year, I decided to join InnerFight and get my fitness going, I wanted to experience that suffering, that pain and mental gains.
Months of posts later, Battle of the East qualifications came up. And during the period of joining IF and leading up to the qualifiers, I had been experiencing imbalances in everything. Food, sleep, supplementation and recovery. As much as I felt like I was getting better at fitness, there were days where I wasn’t myself at all and it happened more often than other times.
Fast forward to Kuwait, I had prepared myself mentally that I want to have fun and experience the energies as I felt it last year. Every person I would bump into, talk to or received a message from would say “You’re gunnawin it this year! First place!” This was just an expectation they set and not for myself, but all the pressure started to cloud my focus and intentions. I had signed up for a paleo meal service and I had already eaten a full day, I woke up nauseous, bloated and heavy. Even though the obstacle run wasn’t all that run for me to start with, I knew I would come back from it stronger with the other workouts.
Every workout I did I was in extreme pain, I would feel the lactic acid built up within the first 20 seconds of the workout. What was going on? This didn’t seem right and with all that was going on, I still tried my very best to push through every workout. I hadn’t been practicing my muscle ups and I had gone through the first round and I was super proud of myself. But every moment I would step out someone would ask me “What’s wrong with you? We expected better results from you! You train at InnerFight, we thought you’d win this”
And there. I was crushed. Did they really expect so much of me? And why and who are they to expect this of me? At one point, I have had it and told someone to “F” off because I was at the edge of breaking down. As I stood there behind the cheering crowd, they called out the podium finishers and as athletes passed I would hear them say “Where’s Kiki? Why didn’t she make it?” or they would ask me “What happened to you this year?”
I walked to the hotel, I didn’t even want to take a taxi, I just wanted to walk and think. I was shattered and shook, holding back the tears and frustration. Once I was in the hotel room, I broke down. I made a phone call to a dear friend of mine and just lost it. I couldn’t talk, all I did was cry. As my mother walked in a few hours later she asked, “Did you win?” I said, “No, I got 5th place” and then asked a million questions as to why the top 3 girls were better than I am. I just replied, “I can’t tell you why because we all did our best.”
I knew I did my best, I was food poisoned, I felt pain through every workout and I finished 5th? That’s a damn achievement to me! But all I was focused on was what they expected of me. My failure to make podium. I felt pressured, being a paid sponsored athlete, a brand ambassador to one of the largest active wear brands in the world and my thousands of followers that expected nothing but a win. When I got back, I decided to make changes. As I have mentioned before, the tests that I did to improve my gut health, supplement intake, nutrition and hormones. I felt like I needed to check myself along the way.
The 2016 EFC qualifications, I was feeling confident and excited to get back into it. After they cancelled it and decided we all had to do the DFC qualifications, the stress of it started to arise. I had done the 2 workouts and didn’t make it in time to post the last qualifying workout. I took this as a sign to reflect on competing, why do I compete? Have I really forgotten what it feels like to have fun? I find athletes separate themselves from others when they compete, was I supposed to be the same? Is that how mental game works? But then I see other athletes making jokes and having fun while competing regardless of placing. What was I missing?
Reflecting on what competing meant to me
Considering the stresses of opening my new gym, from paperwork to contractors to approvals. Training, good nutrition and sleep seemed like a luxury at the time. I took some time to reflect on what it means to compete to me and this is what I came up with. I would repeat this to myself to ensure my intentions with competing so that nothing shakes my focus or upsets me.
I am only here to embrace, experience and express my passion, my gifts, my love for the movement, sport and energy. I am not here for the podium, I am not here for the people, I am not here for any placing. I am only here for the love that I have found in this sport.
To many people, I am guessing this would be ridiculous because they are taught that there are winners and losers, to me, I didn’t believe in that, I always believed that everyone is a winner in their own perspective it’s just the outside world that puts these labels, medals and placings of who’s the best and who isn’t. We are all profound on our own, we don’t compare ourselves to others for we are all one. I am grateful now that I have found peace when I train and when I compete.