Pro Snowboarder Kelly Clark: Finding my self-worth in God
By Sachin Posted in Purpose Rebooted on Apr 15 8 min read
I still haven't found what I am looking for Previous Stop procrastinating, forget motivation: Just do it Next

Hi there! I am Sachin, and I'm glad you stopped by. I live in Kochi, India. I am a web designer by profession and the creator of SuperDifferent. In my free time, I love to write, design and create videos to share my thoughts on life, the world and God.

If I fail, what’s going to happen? Nothing. I’m not looking for my self-worth in the sport.

We all struggle with self-worth. We care so much about what others think about us. There is always this constant pressure to measure up, to prove ourselves and to perform. It seems that our lives revolve so much around the reaction of an audience and their acceptance and affirmation of us.

I read about Kelly Clark’s struggle to find significance and self-worth even when she was so successful in the world of snowboarding. I think her story will inspire you, prompt some soul-searching and perhaps change your perspective on what really defines you.

Who is Kelly Clark?

Kelly Clark is a professional snowboarder and a five-time Olympian. Kelly has laid claim to three Olympic medals (gold in 2002 and bronze in both 2010 and 2014 (and fourth in 2006), seven X Games gold medals and 14 overall (making her the most-medaled woman in X Games history), five World Snowboard Tour titles, six Grand Prix titles and eight U.S. Open title.

In 2011 Kelly became the first woman to land 1080 in competition and is still one of an only a handful of women to successfully land the trick. In 2015 Clark received the Best Female Action Sports Athlete ESPY Award.

With over 70 career wins to her name Clark is the most dominant competitive snowboarder in history, male or female.

Clark, now 34, is the only snowboarder in history to make the Olympics five times.

Now, let’s read Kelly’s story.

Looking for significance

When I was 18, I found myself in a place where I had accomplished everything that was in my heart to do. I had money, I had fame, I had an Olympic gold medal, I had won every major snowboarding event I had ever dreamed of winning when I was a kid.

Apart from that, I didn’t have a whole lot going on in my life. All of the experiences were incredible and I wouldn’t trade them for the world, but it wasn’t fulfilling me. I started asking myself a jarring question over and over again: “Now what?”

I didn’t really know who I was and what I was doing. Everyone knew me as Kelly Clark—pro snowboarder; Kelly Clark—Olympic gold medalist, and that’s who I was. That’s who I was to other people and that’s who I was to myself.

I was thinking: If this is what life is, if I’ve accomplished it all, if this is everything: I don’t want to do it anymore. I went through the motions for a few more years, but I was looking for something more.

I strived to drink the most. I strived to be the rowdiest, all this silly stuff. That didn’t seem like a very good idea, but at the time that was what I thought was gonna make me cool. I wanted people to like me.

I had spiraled into this depression and into this place that was just real dark. I was at this contest, and I was staying by myself. I spent the morning writing about how I didn’t want to live anymore and how it wouldn’t even matter.

In all those external successes, I was really looking for that sense of significance. I think our greatest need as humans is to be significant, and we’ll look for that everywhere. That’s just what I did with my snowboarding.

Finding God

I found myself driven for more- more medals, more exposure, more sponsors, and more people praising me for my performance. I realized that somewhere in the midst of successes and failures, accolades and achievements I lost myself.

When I was 20, I was contemplating quitting. I went to a snowboarding event and from the outside perspective, my life was picture-perfect and together. I was doing well in the contest and I qualified for finals that afternoon. But at the bottom of the pipe, this girl had come down and she had fallen both runs and was crying. I was half-paying attention to her conversation and her friend was trying to make her laugh and said, “Hey, it’s all right, God still loves you.

There was just something about that comment that caught my attention that I couldn’t shake. I was blown away. Before then, I’d never really thought about God. But there was an undeniable stirring in me and I couldn’t ignore it. If there’s a God who loves me, I need to know Him.

So I ran back to my hotel room and I thought: “There has got to be a Bible in the hotel room…there are always Bibles in hotel rooms, right? As I started looking at the Bible, I realized that I don’t know where to look or where to start. There is something getting stirred up inside of me and I don’t know what to do.

I found out that that girl who made the comment was staying in my hotel. I knocked on her door and said, “Hey, my name’s Kelly and I think you might be a Christian and I think you need to tell me about God.”

She told me about having a relationship with Jesus, and she started telling me that was what it was about. My Creator wanted a real relationship with me, and He loved me very much.”

And at the same time, I got a little nervous because I had never thought about God before a day in my life. I had never once wondered why we are here, I had never thought about Him, never been to church, nothing. I had no grid for any of this.

And so I spent the next four months thinking, “Ok, God, if You’re real, reveal Yourself to me.” God really began to move in my heart. I got to the end of my season and I asked myself a few questions like, “Could I ever wake up another day and not think about God?” And the answer was “no” because I was thinking about Him every day and He was real and in my life. And [another question I asked was]: “Could I ever run the other way and pretend He didn’t exist?” That answer was also “no.” And so I came to a conclusion and said, “Alright, Jesus, come and live life with me.”

Once Kelly understood Jesus Christ’s sacrifice and death on the cross and His resurrection for humanity’s salvation, she reflected on what she read, learned and experienced. Soon after, she accepted Christ. “It was the best day of my life,” she says. “No trophy, no medal and no amount of money can equal what Christ did in me that day.”

My identity shift

2006 Games -by then, my identity had started to shift. Before that, my identity was in snowboarding. That’s how people knew me and that’s how I knew myself. That’s where I got a lot of my self-worth. That began to shift and I started to understand that I didn’t get my worth from people or from the things that I did. It was from Christ. If I hadn’t had that shift in my life, I think my world would have come crumbling down.

I have learned something about the Olympics, it’s that it’s not a place that needs to be treated as a destination nor is it something that should define you and I think a lot of the time we spend our lives trying to survive.

In coming to know that I was significant apart from what I did, I began to develop that identity in God. It’s actually been the most freeing thing for my snowboarding and for my career. Because it’s no longer something I have to do, it becomes something that I get to do.

As a high level competitive athlete you know I want to be the same person that I am when I’m winning, when I’m losing, behind closed doors and on TV. I want to live a life of consistency that disarms people.

When we know who we are we get freed up. I get to do what I love with the one that I love and that’s what we’re created for. We’re meant to know our significance and go into places and be that encounter. To encounter God and for people to encounter Him through us.

You know people don’t care what you know until they know that you care. And that’s what it’s like in my world. I build relationships and I wake up in the morning and I ask myself how can I love and honor people today. And that’s how I’m effective in my industry.

I have the identity thing. I have the plan and significance, I have those things established in my life, my non-negotiables and those are good. But what makes things truly transformative is a heart to love people well.

When not competing or training, Clark donates her time and money in fundraising to help the next generation of snowboarders through the Kelly Clark Foundation, which she established in 2010. 

Clark believes her longevity in snowboarding is a result of God’s blessing. Without God, perhaps she would have already become a victim of burnout and retired from competition long ago.

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A collection of thoughts on life, the world and
personal experiences with God
A collection of thoughts on life, the world and personal experiences with God

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