Injury and Identity

by | Aug 23, 2021

How do you define yourself? Well, that’s a complex question. You might be defined by many things on paper: your name, your age, your job… but what matters most is how you see yourself, or your self-identity. Your self-identity is how you perceive your own traits and your place in the world.

It’s easy for sports or physical skills to become part of our self-identity. The better we become at a sport — such as lifting weights, CrossFit, running, football, or tennis — and the more we commit to it, the more likely we are to include it in our sense of self. Our physical skills can become a big part of how we see ourselves. As a result, getting injured can take a toll on our emotions, not just on our bodies. Anger, frustration, anxiety, and depression are common reactions. We begin to question who we are if we can’t lift weights, run, or play tennis. We might ask, “Where do I fit in now?”

No one wants to think about getting injured. That said, it is likely that we will have an injury at some point. It’s a good idea to think in advance about the emotions that might come with injury. Here are a few things you can do to prepare yourself:

  1. Find interests and social connections outside of sports. This might take some thought if you devote a lot of time to training. What pros do you see in making time for new interests now, before an injury forces you to do so?
  2. Think about other things you enjoy in life. You might not get the same boost from other things that you get at the finish line of a 10K run, but there are sure to be other things you enjoy. What else makes you feel fulfilled, proud, or content?
  3. See what you have to offer that isn’t linked to physical skills. How do you self-identify outside of your sport? How much more do you have to offer the world, beyond what you can do physically?