From Sport to Exercise: A Journey of Self-Acceptance

by Kate Forno, Australia

My Involvement with sport started at a very early age and has continued for the last 52 years. That involvement has encompassed all levels of sport.

I started at the age of eight with swimming lessons, then competitive swimming, then gymnastics to improve my turns – I liked it, so I competed in that too until injury (ankles and neck) forced my retirement. Then there was ballroom dancing (in my day, what every young lady should know), but once again I felt the need to compete.

All the while swimming remained my greatest love. Then at 13 – just when I’d made my first state team – I had to give up the competition side of the sport: I’d lost hearing in my left ear for six months due to boils exploding and bursting the ear drum. I still attended club night, as I’d made many friends there, and in order to stay connected with them I took on the duties of handicapper and filled in wherever I was needed. Because I missed competing so much my mother introduced me to the sport of tenpin bowling, which was quite new to Australia in 1965.

So for the next eleven years this became my sport of choice; I represented my state and country and won a scholarship to the US to compete on the professional circuit, which I graciously declined in order to marry my husband Glenn, whom I’d met while competing. But my true love was always swimming and I remained involved at the administrative level up until May 2012.

I’ve held many positions over the years, including Queensland Selector, Queensland Record Steward, Brisbane Record Steward, Asthma Swimming Coordinator for South East Queensland and every official position from timekeeper to inspector of turns and recorder.

In all that time it never once crossed my mind that I competed to prove something to myself and others, i.e., that I was just as good as a man. At swimming I’d been the only girl in a male training lane – I fooled myself into thinking that was because I worked better with the boys and didn’t talk as much (I’m a definite chatterbox). Tenpin bowling was the same; I was always the only girl in a male team, or if I played singles I aimed at bettering the male scores and not the other females. It was only when I started to question why I was involved in something that quite often left me feeling drained and frustrated, that I truly saw what had motivated me for all those years.

I’d always thought that I only became competitive when someone angered me with their bragging or derision of a fellow competitor, and I’d held true to all the false ideals of sport (brotherhood, sportsmanship and equality). In fact, in my arrogance I’d thought myself better than my fellow competitors and stepped that competitiveness up a gear when challenged.

Seven years ago I started attending Universal Medicine workshops and courses and listened to Serge Benhayon speak on the separation and comparison sport caused between individuals. However, I knew that for me there were still things I needed to do within the sport of swimming before I walked away.

I’d stayed within the sport after I became a student of Universal Medicine. I felt the need to re-do, this time with love, all that I had done before. I knew too that sport was never about true brotherhood, but all about separation. It is soul-destroying for all who compete, yet we are not ready to see the separation that sport causes. We still need to learn to swim, surf, run, etc., but we need to learn to do it in a loving way that supports our bodies – and in a way that makes it fun for everyone and acknowledges that it’s fine to just be you, no matter what the skill level.

Over the ensuing six and half years I have spoken often to Serge Benhayon, Miranda Benhayon and Simone Benhayon on the things within the sport that were troubling me. The advice they gave was always supportive and never judgmental, and they always left me with something to ponder on. They knew that the decisions were mine and mine alone, and presented the potential for me to make choices that were right for me and my body. By not imposing, and allowing me the free will to decide when the time was right for me to make those decisions, they allowed me to not only grow as a person but to have a better understanding of why I’d made the decision I had, and how those decisions had impacted on the other people in my life. I saw that particularly as a young mother I’d needed the recognition and acceptance that the sport had provided. I’d been able to use my organisational and clerical/computer skills to fill a gap at a time when computerising records was in its infancy. For a time I’d been able to fill the emptiness I was feeling in my everyday life with the illusion that I was contributing to the betterment of sport as a whole, but I soon came to realise that for every step forward I made, I also took three steps backwards, and the frustration and sadness that came with this was affecting me in ways I’d never even considered.

I’d be so tired at the end of a swim meet that I’d often fall asleep in the car on the way home, leaving my husband to gently wake me when we arrived. My lower back and shoulders would always be sore, and I’d find it hard to get to sleep that night and then get up the next morning and go to work. I’d always have so much going around in my head that I felt needed to be corrected that I’d mull it over for days afterwards. I’d just be getting my energy levels back to normal when it was time for another meet… and so the cycle would begin again.

The administration side of things was getting harder and harder, with the parent body imposing more and more restrictions on the everyday running of the association, none of which were, in my view, beneficial to the membership. All this was no longer sustainable for me or my body. So I decided that I would honour my commitment and finish the year as record steward and resign from all other committees on which I was serving. In May 2012 I packed up all my records, copied whatever information was stored on my desktop and burnt it to disks, cleaned out my uniform cupboard and replaced the uniforms with coats and jackets – thus freeing up much needed space in my crowded wardrobe – and walked away.

I found that my energy improved, my jaw released the tension it had been holding on to, my shoulders felt lighter as if a great burden had been lifted, the nagging, cramping pain in my lower right lung ceased to ache and my peak flow readings improved, thus allowing me to cut back my asthma medication to just a couple of puffs from my Ventolin inhaler first thing in the morning instead of the twice daily nebulisers I’d previously been taking. To be pain-free and on minimal medication was something I’d given up hoping for. I’ve gone from six to eight nebulisers a day, to two nebulisers… and now, just the Ventolin inhaler and the nebuliser if required. I still take my preventive medication and visit my G.P. and Respiratory Physician regularly.

The Olympics came and went, and I didn’t get up extra early to watch the finals or tape the heats while I was at work for later viewing. If I happened to have some time free, I watched what I felt to, but didn’t feel the need to attach to the outcome.

I still get emails and phone calls concerning the sport and its administrators but I’m now able to look at what is being presented without any attachment, and I no longer feel the need to don my warrior’s shield and armour to fend off the onslaughts that would normally ensue.

I’ve found I enjoy my daily walk with my friend and my husband and we talk about all the things we enjoy doing together, rather that whatever new drama needs our attention. From now on, exercise will be my time to enjoy the world around me and to appreciate the fellowship of those I choose to walk beside.

Without the loving support of Serge Benhayon and Universal Medicine I would never have been able to come to the decision I made. I would have continued to abuse myself and my body as I strove to gain acceptance for myself. From Serge I learnt that acceptance is something I have to give to myself before I can give it to others, and that acceptance is never judgmental and always considers the impact my actions will have on another before I perform them. In his gentle, non-imposing way, Serge has given me the tools I needed to become the Kate I truly am.

55 thoughts on “From Sport to Exercise: A Journey of Self-Acceptance

  1. Thanks Kate, your post takes me back to many sports I’ve played in my life. There was much I enjoyed, but the need to prove myself often pushed me to limits where I was injured. Also because of the desire to win, the result meant there was either a feeling of elation or deflation (which was more common).
    No regrets, however if I had the opportunity again I would focus on having fun playing games as opposed to competitive sport. We don’t have to go back too far to see the intense emotional highs (and many more lows) in the recent Olympic Games.

  2. Hi Kate I can so relate to your post, I wasn’t in sport but if there is any element of trying to be better than another it is still competition and looking back in my working life in the 1980’s and 90’s I worked in very male dominated industries to try to prove I could be as good as them… all this took it’s toll on my body in the form of hardness and pain in my shoulders, neck and lower back.
    I have felt the same support from Serge, and all the Benhayon family, there has never been any judgement, just a gentle allowing for me to find what is true for me.

  3. Thank you for your story, Kate and for your honesty in describing how competitive sport did not ever fill the emptiness you were feeling inside.

  4. Thanks Kate, what you’ve described is very true. It is the lack of imposition from another which creates the space for a true choice to be made… hence how we end up able to own our choices and therefore take responsibility for any consequences. And then the body provides confirmation if the choice was true or not.

    1. Great point Jenny, it so is that space of no judgement and it’s such a gift to receive it and allow it. And yes the body confirms it – thank you for expressing this so clearly, it’s really helped me understand.

  5. I loved the honesty in your post Kate, the path you have undertaken, and the inspiration offered, in taking responsibility for your choices, and in choosing ‘what’ it is right for you, ‘when’ it is right for you. It is beautiful that you have shared so honestly and gracefully (as Toni has so aptly expressed) how you were prepared to look at your relationship with sport and the impact on your body, and to make choices based on what you could feel in your body. Thank you for sharing.

  6. A great post about exercise and the affects it has on the body. Your story highlights the affects of sport on the body and that we consider this to be completely natural, healthy and normal. Once you stop the sport/s, as you did, you get to feel just how harming the affects were on the body. It was beautiful to read that you still have a love for exercise and do this with a love for your body.

    1. I agree sallyscott2012 – it takes a level of honesty to be aware of many of the things that we do to our bodies or the harm we often subject them to, and from this to take responsibility for our choices, with the opportunity to make different choices based on listening to the messages our bodies are telling us.

  7. Thanks for sharing Kate.
    I’ve been surfing since I was young and i use to compete. I would only feel good if i won and it would only last a few days until i felt the need to do better. Looking back now I can see how I did it to prove myself to others and be accepted by my friends, family and people in the community.
    For me now its great to to feel free of that expectation and pressure i had on myself. I still surf and enjoy it, but now its about having fun, being in the ocean and a part of nature and it doesn’t define who I am.

  8. During the summer Olympics in London I happened to be somewhere where the news was on – they were reporting on all the gold medalist winners for that day (there were more than half a dozen) and in each clip, each person who won would at the end, collapse and burst into tears – every single one – man or woman.
    Shouldn’t we be asking – Why? If competing and winning was so great wouldn’t then the most natural and normal thing for those competing be to hear the result, say: Ah, ok, that’s that done and walk away. Why are they shaking uncontrollably and crying like they just heard that they had lost a member of the family? It makes no sense.
    But what does make sense is when we hear an honest account like yours Kate and about the pressure that we put onto ourselves to achieve to be the first and the huge expectations that we place onto ourselves that when it’s all over, all that pressure that had been building inside has to come out – like a balloon that has had too much air blown in – it bursts.
    So if that pressure is within us all of the time whilst training and competing – how much harm is it doing to the body in comparison to a few minutes of fame, recognition, and a standing ovation???
    I too used to compete – I competed even where there was no competition, that is how competitive I was, and I know all to well how much my body suffered as a result.

    1. “I too used to compete – I competed even where there was no competition, that is how competitive I was, and I know all to well how much my body suffered as a result.” Yes, I can relate to competing against myself.

  9. Thank you Kate for sharing your experience of competitive sport. My own experience is how unfulfilling it was, never being enough no matter what was achieved. How great that you found your own self acceptance and can enjoy exercise as a connection with yourself without the need to achieve or be recognised.

  10. Kate, I love your blog, and the graceful and non-judgemental way you describe your journey to choose to walk away from competitive and how your body changed. It’s amazing, a real miracle and you know the best thing you chose when and how to do it in your own way and time. That’s inspiring.

  11. Even now I can still feel how easy it is to get sucked into being measured by how successful I was at one sport or another. In doing so I am measuring myself against something that has no connection to who I innately am, and in that regard I can feel the damage that sport does to so many people, making us believe we are somehow greater or lesser through activity that is actually of no consequence.

  12. It is so interesting to read here how much your health improved when you quit being so heavily involved in your sport Kate. How much effort and energy must have been pushed into this that it is no wonder your body was creaking and groaning. It is amazing how hard the mind can push the body if we are attached to something and competitive sport is a great example of this.

  13. What beautiful blog! and who knew that being involved in all of those Swim meets and competitive sports could have adverse affects on your health? I loved reading this because it was so honest.

  14. Super blog Kate. I used to play snooker at quite a high level and would have done and gone anywhere to play a competition. It was only with the presentations of Universal Medicine and Serge Benhayon that I realised I was only doing it out of recognition and acceptance and eventually I stopped playing with no regrets. Like you, in learning to accept myself it is then easier to accept and understand others.

  15. I’ve greatly enjoyed the benefits of learning how to exercise in a way that supports me, what I do (a bit deskbound these days) and how I am feeling. When I was mixing this in with sport I would find there was so much more to it – the drive, the need to win, the exertion leading to injuries… I am very much better off with out it. As for ‘being part of a team’ that is easy – just to be a part of my community!

  16. Wow Kate what a turn around!!!! I love what you wrote about the sport: “We still need to learn to swim, surf, run, etc., but we need to learn to do it in a loving way that supports our bodies – and in a way that makes it fun for everyone and acknowledges that it’s fine to just be you, no matter what the skill level.” This is exactly how I feel it as well so thank you for putting it in such wonderful words.

  17. Kate this was as fascinating to read as it was beautifully written. Knowing the power for change that Universal Medicine wisdom enables, I am never shocked by the changes and physical corrections that people experience when they start to make loving choices for themselves and their body, but l am without fail always deeply inspired by them. So thank you for taking the time to write and share your remarkable story.

  18. Thank you Kate for sharing your journey through sport with us and reminding us how sport is used to fill an emptiness in people. It’s lovely to read the changes you experienced in your body when you ended your association with sport and began making more loving choices and honouring your body more.

  19. A sharing full of wisdom and the quiet and gentle return to self. To return to self with absolute knowing that ‘this is true’, one has to make their own choices and as you have clearly stated – ‘I knew that for me there were still things I needed to do within the sport of swimming before I walked away’. We choose the life we live. In appreciation of all that Serge Benhayon and Universal Medicine has brought to the world. Thanks Kate for sharing.

  20. Wow Kate thats a huge step to be more loving with yourself and others around you.
    Its crazy how deeply we can identify with a role and use it to completely define us and exhaust us.
    Exercise can be a trap of a ‘habit’ that we get into – I was never on committees – but I was always extreme with an exercise growing up and thought it was everything – and going to make me look a certain way.
    But studies show that you burn more calories when you are resting and sleeping and actually the best exercise we can do is one that is consistent – so 15 minutes of gentle movement everyday is better than an hr intensive session 3 times a week – so that has blown a need to push myself out of the water – and see exercise as a gentle connection and support. Not a role or a goal.

  21. Thank you Kate, thats an amazing sharing how self-abusive competitive sport is and that the drive behind is all about recognition. Beautiful to read how you found back to yourself and now enjoy exercise as a loving choice to support your body.

  22. Thank you Kate, what you share in your blog regarding competitive sport needs to be discussed and brought out into the open. Whenever there is a winner there is always a loser and this happens in every level of sport from beginner to the elite. Its great to be a winner, but being a loser does not feel so pleasant, ever. Further, how many professional sportsmen struggle in so many different ways after they retire or are injured? When they are no longer the winner their identity, just like a carefully constructed house of cards, comes crashing down as does life as they know it. Their whole identity has been caught up in the trap that what they do and achieve is more important than who they are. This is wrong on so many levels.

  23. From young, children are almost brainwashed into believing and admiring “…the false ideals of sport”. Yet, if we take only one step away and are willing to be honest, there is no brotherhood or equality in sport – there is only competition, separation, abuse of our bodies, elation if you win, devastation is you don’t. Children are put under extreme pressure to win and gain recognition. How amazing Kate, that you walked away from this and are learning to love and accept yourself and thereby not require that from anyone else.

  24. I can very much resonate with the simplicity and ease I feel you enjoy now with your gentle walk. I have also looked for acceptance and recognition in my vocation and was deeply identified with it, and I kept seeking because I was never content no matter what I did, where I lived. Admitting how exhausting to live like that was a very humbling first step for me. It’s a forever unfolding path from then on, and I am very grateful for the teachings the Universal Medicine presents, and the way of being that Serge Benhayon and other students live by example.

  25. It is great how you challenge what is considered ‘normal’ here concerning sport, without judgement. I feel you do this through sharing your own experience and sharing another way to relate to life and your body. Thank you.

  26. I love your powerful statements: “It is soul-destroying for all who compete” and “I learnt that acceptance is something I have to give to myself before I can give it to others, and that acceptance is never judgmental and always considers the impact my actions will have on another before I perform them.”
    Competing is definitely harming for each of us, much more than we allow ourselves to feel in that moment. Beautiful to read how Serge and Universal Medicine supported you without judgement to make your own loving decisions.

  27. Kate, your blog is written with the clarity and commitment you have shown in choosing your current life path. What comes through clearly to me is the way you took what Universal Medicine offered on board and worked on yourself and released things as you felt you were ready to discard them. This steady building over time has given me a gentle reminder that everything I do today is building the foundation for tomorrow. Thank you.

  28. Kate this is a great blog, taking responsibility for our own Self Acceptance. It is challenging sometimes to accept our choices and realise how unsupportive and unloving they were. There is a more loving way to live if we choose.

  29. Kate I enjoyed reading your blog, I have a very similar story myself, I went from playing top level sport, to golf. When I started going to Universal Medicine presentations I began to realise that maybe it wasn’t the most loving thing to be doing, however I couldn’t just let it go, I carried on playing for a year or two after and Serge never told me that I needed to give it up. I would convince myself I was just playing against the course, yet I knew every time I was playing against myself and others. Eventually I really began to feel how unloving it was to my body, the harm I was doing myself and others and most of all I got to feel the reason why I did it, the realisation sat with me very uncomfortably and I knew that competition and the recognition that came with it was not part of the true me.

  30. Thank you Kate, what a turnaround you have made to your health and well-being since walking away from competitive sport when you were ready to see how harming it was for your body. Lovely to read through understanding and accepting yourself you are now enjoying a far deeper connection and truer relationship with your body.

  31. Thankyou Kate for sharing how you moved away from competitive sport to enjoying your daily walk with your husband, resulting in better health all round. “I knew too that sport was never about true brotherhood, but all about separation. It is soul-destroying for all who compete, yet we are not ready to see the separation that sport causes.” I see that in school, where the winner feels great – for a while – but is then keen to win again, whilst those who ‘lose’ feel down-hearted and either give up or get competitive to win next time. And this is not only about sport, but other things too – to which I too can relate.

  32. Thank you for sharing. It is awesome to be held in a space by another that is without judgement or pressure. If we all had this space readily available we would all be able to make the more beneficial choices for ourselves. This is because the choices would’t be influenced by the outer but given the optimal chance to come from within.

  33. This is what I love about the Benhayon family too Kate there is no judgement of what we do, but they do offer something for us to ponder on so that we come to our own conclusion of what is true for us or not. Once we know that competition separates us and is not about brotherhood it is very difficult to carry on competing because we can begin to feel what it does to our bodies. Sometime it can take a while to accept this but once we do it is very hard to go back. I used to ride horses both in competition and for pleasure but I could feel how much I had to override and harden my body to ride a horse and that we are in fact retarding their evolution by asking them to do things that they were not here to do. I still appreciate and love to watch a horse in it’s natural environment, they are beautiful animals but there is nothing in my body now that would want to get on and ride a horse.

  34. Competition with ourselves and with others can become a sport of everyday life when we seek recognition for what we do. Very claustrophobic. Serge Benhayon opened the window for me when he presented on accepting and appreciating ourselves for who we are and not for what we do.

  35. Beautiful to read Kate, how you have come full circle from seeking acceptance outside of yourself, to now knowing that self-acceptance can only come from ourselves, through the self-loving choices we make.

  36. Kate, this is a deeply poignant and amazing account – of a girl and woman who took on sport and sporting administrative involvement, as so many of us would do, just accepting it as societally ‘normal’. That you have brought this back to your own striving for acceptance, is very powerful – how many would make such an admission I wonder? Especially in a world that reveres those who achieve in such spheres, regardless of the cost.

  37. If I may add, the enormous reduction in your asthma medication is mind-blowing Kate. We can place so much pressure on ourselves with roles we take on in life can’t we… our bodies commonly crying out for us to restore a sense of balance. Your choice to stop your involvement in the administrative side of the sport feels to be about what truly honoured the balance within you – one that didn’t require you to take on others dramas, as you’ve shared. Amazing.

  38. The link between sport and body damage is huge, there are physiotherapists, doctors and chiropractors who just specialise in sport injuries. Surely that should tell us something.

  39. Lovely to read your story again Kate, there are so many things we can convince ourselves we want to do and I was discussing this with a friend the other day who isn’t familiar with the work of Universal Medicine. She was talking of how she was unravelling all the ideas of what it is she likes, like riding a motorbike and doing extreme endurance events is something she actually enjoys. I thought it was a pretty cool thing to hear, and I wonder how many things we all do not because we actually love them but because we are looking to escape or gain acceptance or any other manner of reasons that don’t actually support us to live in a healthy body. Your description of the physical symptoms and how they dropped away is a lovely confirmation of the self loving choices you made to no longer be unkind to yourself.

  40. Excercise is a vital part of human life and strengthening and preparing the body for what it needs to do. But we’ve made it into this awful thing where we compete and squish another person to feel better in ourselves. What if we lived in a way that we felt so content within ourselves that nothing another could do could rile competition in us? Or trigger the need to perform to get acceptance? That would be pretty cool.

  41. It is interesting how many people, including myself, have admitted to knowing that they would have unknowingly continued abusing themselves and their bodies if Universal Medicine didn’t come along and offer the awareness of what we were choosing and the possibility of living another way. It’s crazy how we can strive for what we believe is important without releasing the harm we were creating for ourselves all the while denying ourselves the life we really want.

  42. Incredible to read how much our life decisions can effect our bodies and how if we ignore it we manifest disease and so valuable to make this connection and not ignore it by accepting bad health as ‘bad luck’ or blame it on the genes.

  43. Thanks Kate, I appreciated your last line about exercise ” From now on, exercise will be my time to enjoy the world around me…” and the people you are with. This is such a gentle and loving approach compared to being competitive. Why strive to be with the goal to be number one, when we can be with each other in harmony and with the all we are part of.

  44. ‘ I knew too that sport was never about true brotherhood, but all about separation.’ Well said Kate, as your own experience with competitive sports you are able to speak with authority on the real harm of competition and the impact this has on the body. It is beautiful to read of the transformation you have made in your life with the support of Universal Medicine and for you to discover the simplicity and joy in making loving choices everyday.

  45. I was heavily involved in some sports and intense exercise. I acquaintanted myself to many injuries that I can name. My last years of sport I observed how aggressive I was crushing my opponents. I had great influence on the sporting field using my size and mostly my skill to compete and infiltrate my opponents bringing them down through what I saw was their weaknesses. After competing I did not feel in harmony with my body. As my body and being gentle became more of my focus and to feel good sport was not a part of that. I had to give it way which included watching it. I am so much healthier due to this fact.

  46. Competitive sport can be so damaging to our body, and yet we override this till the body says no more, great that the lack of imposition from Serge and his family gave you the space for a loving choice to be made.

  47. This is a very insightful account into what can happen when we devote ourselves to a cause that promises companionship, acceptance, recognition and self-esteem, albeit at a high price – a sore and aching body and a continual stream of drama, to mention just a few of the symptoms you describe.

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