Olympic Competitor Gabbi Cunningham On Mental Health, Social Media, And Her Fans

Another thing that the documentary touched on a lot is the balance of all of these expectations that are put on elite athletes. How do you kind of manage and balance, the fans, the coaches, the sponsors, your own goals? How does that all play out for you?

That’s something I’m still trying to work on. I get better as the years go on, the more experience that I get, the more people I talk to, and me asking them questions. I have younger athletes that ask me questions, but still, I am young in a sense. There’s certain athletes that I might look up to, or even my coach. He’s been in the places that I want to go, the places that I’ve been. Talking to him about it and how he managed, it helps a lot.

I do know that it’s very difficult, especially because as athletes, we also have high expectations for ourselves. I’m pretty sure I said it in the documentary, just because we perform bad, doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re a bad person. We’re human too. Nine times out of ten, if I’m being honest, expectations that the fans have for us, we probably have for ourselves. When we don’t meet that, we’re definitely hard on ourselves too.

That’s where the problem comes, because we have those expectations. We don’t meet them. We’re having a down moment. We’re hard on ourselves about it. You have other people coming and being hard on you about it too, and that’s never a good thing. That is where the trouble of balancing all the expectations are, because you have them for yourself, and then everybody else is giving their input on their expectations too. It becomes overwhelming. Whether that’s from sponsors, whether that’s from fans, it’s never a good feeling, not to reach the expectations that you have for yourself, that they have for you. It becomes very demanding.

I’m still trying to learn how to balance it. I’ve been getting better. I talk to family members, I talk to people that try to encourage me and give me support, and that helps a lot, but it does become hard sometimes.

How has balancing all of those expectations impacted your mental health at times?

It definitely causes me to have my highs and my lows … it’s very interesting because it can go both ways, where you have high expectations for yourself and the fans do too. When you don’t perform well, they have negative things they want to say.

I’ve also had cases where I made it to the Olympics, I made it to the Olympic final. I personally wanted to medal. I didn’t meet my expectations for that meet, and I was disappointed in myself and I had everyone around me. They were like, “No, you made it to the final, you’re ‘this’ in the world. That is a great accomplishment!” I’m like, “Yes, I understand that, but it’s still not what I wanted, and it’s not where I want it to be.” It definitely depends on the situation.

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