Irish hockey superstar Nikki Symmons talks about coming out and being her authentic self #BeYourself
It takes huge courage and strength to share your voice, but by sharing your voice you the potential to raise those up around you. As part of the #BeYourself campaign we hope to elevate the LGBT community by sharing powerful stories like Nikki's below.
Nikki Symmons is an Irish hockey and cricket superstar player. She is our most capped athlete of her sex and has been described as "the female Brian O’Driscoll”. She has over 200 caps for the Irish hockey team and is in the EHF Hall of Fame. In 2014, she became her country's first female athlete to speak publicly about being gay. SportsAccord the union for Olympic and non-Olympic sports federations, selected her for the Sports Hero award which it gives as recognition for inspiring young people.
“Be yourself”, powerful words that can be very easily said to someone else, but are you actually doing it yourself? Over the past couple of years in particular these words have been a central part of my life. I always thought I was being myself in my 20’s but I was in fact dealing with many things inside my head and not truly being me. My career as an athlete was truly testing both physically and mentally along with the rest of life that was going on in the background. I am quite a carefree but determined person to many people, but in fact battle with myself most days. I still don’t think I am completely myself yet but I am certainly working hard every day to make it a reality. If you take one thing from this piece it would be this: Never stop working on yourself. Self-awareness and motivation are key to becoming the best you.
All of my family have been brilliant. Helping me get through a marriage breakup between my mum and dad when I was a baby, to my mum remarrying into a family with 4 children when I was 6. My dad not being around then in and out of my life through my teens, to coming out when I was 21 knowing that I had to take a huge step to really be me. I hurt a few people along the way but I knew deep down that I was not the person people thought I was, I was different. It was extremely hard at the time but I did not want to go through life hiding something that was clearly there. It was time to think about myself not what others thought or wanted for me. This may sound selfish but it is the reality, if you are not selfish about your own life you can end up living a life that you really don’t want.
I have always been strong minded and when I make up my mind to do something, I do it - this was also true for my sporting career. It was not always easy, and I certainly found out who my friends were, but I just knew for sure it was the right thing to do. I was so much more comfortable in many ways, like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders, something simple like going out was not such a stress or burden anymore, I was showing signs of the real me.
Little did I know that when I came out to my Dad in NYC when I was 22, I was going to find out that he had been with a man for the past 10 years or so. This news threw me a bit, especially as to me, I had to tell him as soon as possible before someone else did. But, had never told me, in fact he didn’t then either, his partner did. This moment confirmed to me how important it is to not only be yourself but to know yourself and show the world your true self. I don’t know the ins and outs of my Dad’s life but I am very proud of him for finally being himself.
We are always looking at other people, what they are doing, what they look like, how much money they are earning etc., along with worrying about what they think of us. These days it is hard to get away from that when we spend so much time on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube etc. To deal with this and overcome these feelings, we need to take a step back, look at ourselves, understand ourselves and connect our mind with our body.
Think about you, your beliefs, your values and YOUR own story. No one else lives your life except you so make the best of it, no need to pretend to be something you are not, BE YOURSELF no matter what anyone else has to say.