Stop Taking Yourself Out of the Game

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I’m not really a sports girl. I’ve played sports exactly twice in my life. One of those times was in second grade — I played basketball. I wasn’t very good, but I did somewhat enjoy it. However, after the end of the season, I became very upset to realize that they had an All Star Team that I was not picked for. 

For those who are about as clueless as me when it comes to sports, in the “little leagues” (or whatever it is they’re called) coaches don’t get to pick their team. Whoever signs up gets to play. However, after the season is over, the coaches handpick the best on the team to form the All Star Team, where they play with the people they actually want on the team.

I was pretty crushed when a fellow teammate taunted me because she was picked and I was not. So instead of using that to fuel me to be better, or striving to make the All Star Team next year, or just playing for the fun of it, I decided to never play again. And I never did play again.

Another time in my early elementary school years, I decided to play softball. The thing was, I didn’t really know anything about softball. And, again, I wasn’t very good.

I spent every game way out in the outfield where the ball never went. I would get so bored that I would end up sitting in the grass and picking at the grass and the flowers. 

Spoiler alert: I didn’t even make it to the end of the season. I quit.

Instead of trying to learn more about softball, or trying to get better, I quit. Why? Because it was easier. 

Let me give you another example.

When I was fifteen years old, my sister and I decided to start taking classes at the community college nearby our home. We were both homeschooled and the college had a program called Dual Enrollment where you could take college classes at a reduced rate that would count as credits for both high school and college.

Since we weren’t old enough to take the ACT or SAT yet, they had us take an enrollment exam in order to test us on our skills. If we didn’t pass, we couldn’t attend. 

The exam was conducted on a computer and consisted of tests for math and English. After the test, the instructor informed us that Caleigh (my sister) had passed with flying colors. I, on the other hand, had not. I failed both.

When he told us that, my heart dropped into my stomach and sunk like a rock. I was so upset and so embarrassed. I felt like a complete failure, and my eyes stung with unshed tears.

The thing is, I am terrible at math. Like, really, really bad, guys. So that wasn’t much of a surprise. 

What was a surprise was that I had failed the English portion. I love English and I’ve always excelled in it. 

The instructor told us that he thought that my failing the English portion was an accident as I hadn’t spent much time on it. He suggested coming back in for a written exam.

I wanted to say no; to tell them to forget it. Who needs college anyways?! 

Later, my mom asked me why I was declining the second test. 

“I don’t want to fail again. That will be so embarrassing.” I had cried to her.

Eventually, she was able to convince me to go back and take the test again. And when I did, not only did I pass, but I did great.

The thing is, I was ready to quit and give up at the slightest sign of inconvenience, failure, or embarrassment. I would rather quit and have everyone think I could do it but chose not to; rather than try and have everyone see me fail.

When I look back on these moments in life, I see the error in that process. 

What if I had stuck with basketball? Maybe I would have become really good. 

What if I had finished the softball season? I might have had loads of fun and made new friends. 

And most importantly, what if I never went back and retook the test? 

You see, in life, we so often take ourselves out of the game because there’s too much risk. We don’t want to fail, or mess up, or make anyone mad; we don’t want to embarrass ourselves. And so we miss out on life; we miss out on fun experiences and good memories.

I encourage you this week to stop letting fear make decisions for you. Stop letting anxiety pick what you can and can’t do. Stop taking yourself out of the game! You might not be the best in your field, you might mess up, but this is a part of the learning experience. 

I once heard someone say that all good things are on the other side of fear. So why are we missing out on this?

Ask yourself today if it’s worth it. Is it worth it to let fear say you can’t try out for the team? Is it worth it to let anxiety decide whether or not you’ll try out for the musical? Is it worth it to back out on something you really want, just because you’re afraid?

If you would, allow me the honor to answer for you: NO! It is NOT at ALL worth it.

Take a good look at your life and ask yourself: is fear ruling my life? If the answer is yes, here are a few practical tips to overcome this and stop missing out on life.

  1. Acknowledge the presence of fear

I’m sure that you’ve heard the expression “the first step to any problem is admitting you have a problem” as many times as I have. It’s used in a ton of movies and TV shows, and we can all roll our eyes together and quote and cliche line. 

However, I have to admit, this line rings true. 

A lot of times, I tell myself I don’t want to do something because I don’t have time, or so-and-so is better and she deserves it more, or (insert excuse here). But, most of the time, these are the lines that fear hides behind.

If we were to sit ourselves down and have a Serious Discussion with ourselves, we might find that we didn’t turn that position down at work because we were too busy. We turned it down because we were afraid we wouldn’t be good at it and would disappoint our boss. We didn’t decide not to try out for the team because Mom couldn’t drive us to practice. We turned it down because we were afraid we wouldn’t make it.

So step one is to acknowledge that fear is holding us back.

  1. Refuse to back down to fear

I know. I make it sound SO easy.

Honestly, it’s not. However, if we can say, “Okay, the reason I’m not (insert problem here) is because of fear. I acknowledge that. But I really want to (insert thing here again) so I WILL NOT let fear stop me anymore. I’m moving forward.”

When we say this, first of all, it’s a declaration to the enemy that he’s not winning anymore. But it also takes our mind off defeat, and sets it on the purpose before us.

  1. Make a plan

I love to plan y’all. I’m like the queen of planning. But even if you’re a spur of the moment type of guy or gal, this step is still for you.

When fear tries to halt us in our steps, we need to make two types of plans: what practical steps can I take to meet my goal, and how do I plan to handle fear when it crops up.

For the practical steps portion, let’s use trying out for a school play as an example. So let’s set the stage (ha, you see what I did there).

You want to play the lead role in your school’s upcoming play, but you’re super nervous and kind of don’t want to do it. You’ve already laid the excuses aside, acknowledged fear, and made the decision to refuse to back down. 

But, like, you’re not sure about that whole refuse step. You’re thinking that Maddisen girl must be crazy. This is impossible! She doesn’t know me or the stakes or what will happen if I fail. I have to quit. There’s no way I can do this.

This is exactly why we need to plan! You see, we are constantly trying to take ourselves out of the game. But in sports, the player’s don’t get to decide when they go in or when they come out. The coach does. 

It’s similar in life. Yes, we have free will and we can choose to take ourselves out. But I’m imploring you to stop. Because what if you make the winning shot? What if you’re the player that people need to lean on? What if you’re the one who blocks the other team from scoring?

When we take ourselves out of the game, we deprive our team of a valuable asset. 

So in this made up scenario, if you back out before you can even try out, the play could be losing its best voice. 

So in preparation for these feelings, get a plan together. In this example, your preparation might be this: 

First, you’re going to put your name on the sign up list. It’s just a simple signature. No big deal.

And then once your name is on there, you tell yourself that you have committed to it, and you’re going to see it through.

Second, you’re going to do all you can to prepare.

And finally, the day of, you do whatever takes your mind off of it. Whether that be envisioning the future play, ignoring it entirely, making plans to go out with friends later, getting lost in a good book, or eating your favorite comfort foods — do it!

And now you’ve made it to your destination!

However, just because we make a plan, doesn’t mean fear still won’t pop its head up. So how do we handle it?

Making a plan to handle fear is fairly simple. There are so many things you can do.

Maybe get yourself a support buddy who will remind you of the reason you’re doing this when all you really want to do is back out. Or, get advice from somebody when the fear starts to roar. 

I pray you take these steps, and whatever else you know and have learned for yourself, and apply it to your life.

Kick fear out of the way and stop taking yourself out of the game!


Maddisen Sauls is the smile and voice behind the Everyday Joy blog as well as the author of the Word of the Week posts and the editor of by leaps and bounds. Throughout her life, Maddisen has worked as a reporter for small town newspapers, a School Age and Preschool teacher, and has acquired her ministerial license. 

An avid book reader and lover of the written word, Maddisen is passionate about using her favorite medium to reach the lost and the hurting, and to offer encouragement and hope to those struggling through life. 

Following her battle with depression, Maddisen has made it her mission to help other people through this journey and to bring joy to the lives of the people around her. 

You can find Maddisen on Instagram @maddisen.paige

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