5 Lessons I Learned As An Olympic Swimmer To Help Build Self-Confidence


You might know Katie Hoff Anderson as a two-time Olympic swimmer and three-time Olympic medalist, eight-time World Champion and current American record holder in swimming. In fact, she was once touted as the “female Michael Phelps” logging her first trip to the Athens Olympics at just 15 years old!

But it hasn’t been all sunshine and roses.

In the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Anderson missed her lifetime goal to secure an Olympic gold medal in the 400-meter freestyle by just 0.07 seconds, sending her into deep disappointment and self-reflection in search of her identity within and outside of swimming. She turned this journey into a book, called Blueprint, and in 2020 she founded fitness training company Synergy Dryland. Most recently she has partnered with Lash Lounge as an official brand ambassador.

So, what are Anderson’s secrets for turning lemons into lemonade?

Here’s a look at the five lessons Anderson says she learned as an Olympic swimmer to help build self-confidence

Embrace the suck.

“This is military slang for accepting something that is completely unpleasant but also unavoidable. It’s approaching and accepting the situation, no matter how bad it is. It’s also the biggest lesson I learned during my time as an Olympic swimmer. I experienced some really high highs but also some super low lows – and learning how to deal with the latter in a productive and healthy way is truly a learned skill. By learning to accept and move forward despite setbacks in my career and health, I was able to improve my mindset and build confidence that helped me in future challenges that came my way.”

Reimagine failure.

“There is no such thing as perfection, no matter how hard you work. Just because you didn’t accomplish what you set out to do doesn’t mean that you failed. In fact, failure often leads to opportunities you may not have originally had and teaches you to have grit and resilience. If you reimagine failure as a new opportunity – to improve, to change or to grow – you will come back stronger and more confident than ever.”

Focus on daily wins.

“Solely focusing on your biggest goals can feel overwhelming and affect your mental health. For me, those goals were winning Olympic gold medals and living up to my nickname as the female Michael Phelps. Now, I focus on small daily wins. It can be anything from completing my daily workout to focusing an hour on “me” time. I am a girly girl at heart, and getting my lashes done at The Lash Lounge gives me an hour to focus on myself and leaves me feeling more confident and beautiful. Focusing on smaller accomplishments ultimately sets you up for achieving the big ones.”

Changing course helps you grow.

“I named my book “Blueprint” because everyone has a blueprint when they start out chasing a goal. The thing about blueprints is that they are editable – you can adjust and make new drafts to excel and move forward as life unfolds. The Olympics challenged me to realize it was okay to adjust my goals and ultimately my identity, and by doing so I found joy and confidence outside of swimming. That growth is invaluable.”

Fear makes something worth doing.

“Fear is paralyzing, but overcoming it is what builds resilience, character and confidence. Facing something that terrifies you and seems impossible is the only way you’ll improve for next time. My first shot at the Olympics, I threw up on the pool deck after my race out of nerves. It made worldwide headlines and nearly made me too intimidated to ever compete again. Pushing through only made me stronger and more confident – not only in my swimming career, but also personally as a public figure. I was able to overcome my fear and know that I can overcome anything I put my mind to.”

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