I’d always held Lance Armstrong in high esteem…the handsome, rugged Texan who overcame cancer to achieve the pinnacle of athletic success in his sport an incredible SEVEN times. You see, I felt loosely connected since I went to medical school in Texas, loved the music of his former girlfriend Sheryl Crow and did ride a bike a few times. Once, near Seattle, I made it all the way around Lake Washington in a day–about 65 miles. It was not pretty, but I did it.
A few years ago, the rumors of doping started swirling. No, it couldn’t be. Lance Armstrong, the charitable champion of LiveStrong, could not be a liar. I was reassured by his vehement denials.
And now, we know for sure. He did lie. Now, instead of courage and determination, he stands for narcissism, bullying and lack of integrity. He hurt his family, his sponsors, his fans both young and old, and his country.
What went wrong for this golden boy? Did it start in childhood? Did his life-threatening bout with testicular cancer take with it his sense of self?
Why did this amazing man not feel like he was man enough? It’s said that he felt compelled to cheat to level the playing field in competitive cycling. How often have we heard “Everybody’s doing it, so it must be OK?” But Lance took it further by brazenly denying the truth, threatening, belittling and even suing those who dared pop his imaginary bubble.
Lance’s competitive spirit helped him beat cancer, but also led him down the path of seven false victories. He still has that today, vowing, “I will spend the rest of my life trying to earn back trust and apologize to people.” I think that he has to start with a deep look at himself. Many assert that he’s just sorry he got caught. As we judge, what can we learn from Lance?
He was one of our many celebrity sports deities, and now he is a very human, fallen hero. Margie Warrell of Forbes.com writes, “None of us are immune to the same temptations that Armstrong’s succumbed to. As self-serving, deceitful and despicable as Armstrong’s behavior has been, it’s also very human… It’s easy to do the right thing when the right thing doesn’t cost or inconvenience you in any significant way. It’s not as easy when it requires giving up something that you value: time, recognition, money, power, prestige, information, opportunity or some other material or psychological pay-off.” She continues, “No amount of bravery or brilliance can ever compensate for a lack of character or integrity. Your commitment to playing a bigger game in your career and life must place doing what’s right ahead of doing what’s convenient, clever or courageous.”
I think we put celebrities on impossible pedestals. And sometimes we do this to ourselves. We are perfectionists, Superwomen and Supermen, trying to keep up, but feeling like we are never enough, and never satisfied. We feel that our accomplishments must be extra-ordinary, or they aren’t worth celebrating. Life goes so fast that simple joys go un-noticed. We never have enough, do enough or are ENOUGH. And it becomes easier to compromise ourselves in order to achieve this elusive perfectionism.
Life coach Amy Kessel writes, “When we deny that we are enough, we relegate ourselves to being incomplete. We look for outside validation that we are enough: we seek titles, relationships, bodies and accomplishments that create an external image of success. Of being enough.”
Where do we get off this train? I think it starts with defining your principles and boundaries. What is important to you? How do daily decisions impact these priorities? Be intentional about your choices. Be reasonable in your expectations of yourself and others. Take time to be deeply grateful for what you have. Work on being comfortable in your own skin and develop the confidence needed to stand up for what you believe. We are all worthy of celebrating. Celebrate daily victories, big and small, in our lives and in those around us. Be conscious of our everyday heroes.
Lance, we had no idea how fragile you were, that you would go to such lengths to feel man enough. I hope that you can rebuild and restore, and realize that you were enough the minute you were born. Thanks for the lesson and the reminder for us all.