Top world athlete shares her thoughts on how to manage the pressure of life's expectations.
Amanda Sobhy | April 28, 2022 | Athletics & Mental Health
Mindyra is proud to be partnering with champion squash player Amanda Sobhy, as its first official Mindyra ambassador athlete. Sobhy is the highest-ranked U.S. born player ever by Professional Squash Association rankings and has won four U.S. National Championships. In 2021, she bravely detailed her 10-year struggle with an eating disorder, sharing a message with thousands around the world that mental and physical struggles affect everyone. As a Mindyra ambassador, Amanda regularly shares experiences from her life on tour and the battles she continues to overcome on our blog. Her most recent installment can be found below.
Welcome back to another mental health blog with Mands! After spending a month on the road competing in tournaments in Egypt and England, I came back thinking a lot about expectations and how they can affect one’s mental health.
Let’s face it, we all have expectations for ourselves. You don’t need to be a professional athlete to feel the pressure of expectations in your life. Whether you want to achieve a certain goal at work, or make changes to your health and well-being, you set expectations. We really can’t avoid them, but with the right tools we can learn how to manage them.
As the top U.S. squash player and one of the best in the world, I put a lot of pressure and expectations on myself to achieve my goals. On top of that, I have a lot of eyeballs on me. Whether it’s in person, or on SquashTV, there are a lot of people all over the world who are following my career. Don’t get me wrong,for the most part I absolutely love it! It’s one of my favorite parts about being a professional squash player. I have met so many incredible people throughout my career, and my fan base is what keeps me going during tough times. But for a lot of these outside viewers, the only way to keep track of me is through tournament results, rankings, or social media. This puts a lot of emphasis on results and rankings, which can often lead to a player viewing their self worth as nothing more than a tournament result or ranking number.
Unfortunately, I fell into this mindset for many years. I put a lot of emphasis on results and rankings to determine my worth as a squash player and as a person. My form of coping with all the pressure and expectations that I set for myself was through food, which contributed to my eating disorder. Instead of managing the highs and lows of sport in a healthy manner, I would turn to binging and purging as my coping mechanism. We all have that inner critic inside us that says the most ridiculous things, yet we somehow always believe them. I call it my “self-sabotage” mode. Food is not the only way people cope with pressure and expectations. Drugs, alcohol, gambling, social isolation, forgoing responsibilities or schedules, and extreme negative self-talk are some other forms of self-sabotaging behavior.
I know I am never going to completely let go of all the expectations I have for myself. Some of you may be in the same boat. I’ll always have expectations especially while I’m still competing on tour. In order to break free from my eating disorder, I knew I had to learn how to manage these expectations and implement healthier coping mechanisms whenever certain triggers came up. I now journal after losses which helps get my “eating disorder voice” out of my head and onto paper as an emotional release. I never let myself be alone when I am triggered after a disappointing loss, since it’s a lot harder to go into self-sabotage mode when I’m with people from my support system. I also reframe my losses as opportunities to learn and grow rather than seeing them as failures. Lastly, I try to give myself grace. I am human after all and while I try to be the best in the world at squash, I am not perfect. And that’s okay. The triggers I face while competing as a professional squash player never really go away. I have just learned to manage them a lot better. For me, that’s a win.