As a first-generation Macedonian Australian, I’ve followed the career of Alexander Volkanovski closely.
Unlike the David Warners of the world, Volkanovski is one of few Australian sporting exports that I and many like me could truly identify with — and a UFC champion at that!
Up until a recent loss against Islam Makhachev, he was considered by many pundits the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world.
That said, despite the strong and charismatic exterior, Volkanovski held tears back at a post-fight press conference on the weekend, eluding to his struggles with mental health.
“It is hard, it really is hard for athletes, I never thought I’d struggle with it but for some reason when I wasn’t fighting or in camp … I was just doing my head in, I needed a fight.”
“I don’t know how, everything’s fine, I’ve got a beautiful family, but I think you just need to keep busy. That’s why I ask the UFC to keep me busy. I need to be in camp otherwise I’m going to do my head in.”
Quite sobering coming from a 35-year-old UFC champion with the world at his feet.
Are we to be surprised though?
I’ve heard such things from my parents from a young age.
“Keep moving. Stay busy. Stay positive”.
Is that really the best way forward? To a degree, perhaps.
But numbing ourselves from feeling with work, socializing, exercise, and *pick your poison* doesn’t seem like a long-term solution.
It drives a wedge between us and ourselves and leaves us operating from a place of fear and escapism, not intention.
“Doing nothing is the hardest thing to do”.
Oscar Wilde, Marina Abramovic, and even Game of Thrones’ Tyrion Lannister have all said versions of this.
Doing nothing requires confronting our feelings. Sitting with them. Not judging them as good or bad. Just watching.
It requires having a healthy relationship… with ourselves.
Maybe that feeling “doing your head in” is trying to tell you something?
Maybe it’s not.
Maybe there’s something to learn.
Maybe there isn’t.
Whatever the case, it’s OK to feel.
It doesn’t make you weak.
It just makes you human.
I once read that feelings are like clouds in the sky. We don’t try to hold onto clouds, or identify them — rather we watch them come and go.
The more comfortable we can get watching our feelings come and go, the more we can live, not from a place of running from our feelings, but from a place of intention. 💜