For Venus Williams, failure is just a bump on the road. It’s temporary, “a moment”, a catalyst to try even harder. And, importantly, she doesn’t let it define her. In fact, after a setback Williams has more fire in her belly than before, determined to improve and achieve her goal the next time around. An impressive sign of character considering the high pressure, visibility, and expectations on the professional tennis player.
But what’s her secret? How does she manage the heavy weight of being a competitive athlete who is depended on by so many, and perform each time out on the court? Well, her answer is very simple: Williams is focusing on the game. Not what others are thinking or how she looks, but how she’s going to get the job done — and possibly beat her last record.
Young girls out there could learn a thing or two from the Olympic medalist and former #1 tennis champion when it comes to the power of the mind. That’s why Dove is continuing its partnership with Williams for its #KeepHerConfident campaign geared towards keeping girls in sports (an astonishing 45% of teenage girls globally drop out of sports each year, citing low body confidence as the #1 reason). To promote the initiative, Dove will be airing its new ad in a commercial during tonight’s Super Bowlgame.
To catch more words of wisdom from Williams and how shifting your mindset can be powerful and transformative, read on below.
Why is the initiative important to you?
This initiative is very close to me because my whole experience has been playing sports, and I really, fully understand and have experienced and benefitted from the results of that — the confidence that it gives you, the things that it teaches you. And I know how important it is to bring it out in girls, and for all girls. And the fact that 45% of girls drop out globally by age 14 due to low body confidence, that number is sobering. And I didn’t know about that number until I worked with Dove. I thought we were past that time, but we’re not and we still have work to do.
Have you ever felt self-conscious about your body growing up, and how did you deal with it?
I was so focused on my game that I didn’t even know to feel conscious. I was so focused on what my body can do for me, and not what it looked like. And if you could keep your focus away from that, you focus more on how you’re performing, how you’re getting better the next day. When you’re an athlete, all you think about and all you’re obsessed with is that incremental moment of improving. And your mindset shifts. I didn’t even know to think about those things because my focus was elsewhere, so it’s so powerful to have your focus somewhere else.
Do you think a part of that was also due to your environment? Did you have a supportive environment where you could focus on sports?
For sure. My parents, my sisters — my mom wasn’t raising anyone who wasn’t confident. That wasn’t her thing. She wanted us to be prepared for the world. It’s a beautiful place, but it has its challenges and you have to be ready. And you have to bet on yourself and you have to believe in yourself. It’s so important, even if no one else is going to bet on you, you still have to throw all your money on yourself. And that’s the kind of household that I grew up in, I had those opportunities. Not everyone had that, I was fortunate and very blessed.
But believing in yourself and building confidence doesn’t necessarily happen overnight. It’s something you have to work on, it’s intentional. The interesting part about sports is that all that work that you normally would do if you weren’t an athlete, that work gets done just because you’re chasing a ball, hitting a ball, or running. Through all that, you’re learning these lessons and learning about yourself and building this confidence in this way that’s quite organic.
Sports is not just a physical game, it’s also about mental toughness. What’s your best advice to build resilience in an environment that may not always be supportive of that?
You can find people who are supportive, a lot of people who want to see you do well. There are a lot of people in the community who dedicate their lives to that. You can find those people, and you don’t have to be around people who don’t believe in you. Sometimes those people are close, and it’s hard. It’s hard to see that. When you’re young, it’s hard to make those choices. But it is OK to be in a positive environment. It is OK to believe in yourself.
I don’t know what that feels like [to be in a negative environment]. I know that there are a lot of people and girls who go through it. So that’s why I think it’s important to have role models. So that’s something you have to aim for.
What have you told yourself after a failure or setback? How do you keep pushing through?
For me, I’m in shock because I’ve trained or wanted something else. And when that doesn’t happen, I just want to work harder. I want to live life on my terms, and when it doesn’t happen on my terms, it’s like a moment. It’s not the end of the story. I want the story to be the way I write it, and failure is just a bump on the road. It’s something you might not even remember at some point in time. I don’t think we remember every single failure. It’s just a moment so that’s how you have to treat it.
What’s one beauty treatment you can’t live without?
I love my masks. There are a few I like, one by Tata Harper, one by Osea, but they don’t make it anymore. But I went on the internet and found the ones that I could find. And just moisturizing; just moisturize, moisturize, moisturize.