Amanda Beard: The Limitation of Labels

Amanda Beard

People call these things imperfections, but they’re not, aw, that’s the good stuff. ” – Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting

By all outward appearances, Amanda Beard’s life looks like a fairy tale.  As a 3-time Olympian and a 7-time Olympic medalist in swimming, Amanda has accomplished more as a competitive athlete than most people can dream about, much less realize.  However, her life out of the swimming pool has been less than perfect.  In her new book, In The Water They Can’t See You Cry, she chronicles a life filled with obstacles, frustration and ultimately depression.

This past weekend, I started reading the book and was immediately pulled deep into Amanda’s emotionally charged world.  And unlike the white picket-fence backstory created by the Olympic marketing department, that world was messy.

Here were a few topics that grabbed my attention:

School and dealing with dyslexia

“School made me cry out of frustration or humiliation on a daily basis.”

“School was murder…  I didn’t see how I could work through this kind of pain – the pain of being really bad at something without hope of improvement.”

Eating disorders

“I found something that felt good, something that finally told the voice calling me fat to shut up.  Chasing that feeling, I began throwing up once a week, slowly graduating to two or three times a week.”

Cutting

“The skin was ugly and raw and scratched, but I liked looking at it…  The anger built up inside me had been released through the opening.”

The Olympics

“In the world of the Games, you have four years to prepare for a moment – two minutes, five minutes, maybe a little more – where your entire worth is instantly judged…  The artificial construct produces the highest highs and the lowest lows.”

Summary

“The greatest realization for me is that I have earned more respect because of the real-life story behind my image and accomplishments.”

While the book is a memoir, it actually reads more like a novel in how we see Amanda’s “character” unfold – the simplistic labels of Olympian, Model, Wife and Mom are given depth and nuance by the realities of real life.

Thanks Amanda for your courage to tell the world about your imperfections.  Like Robin Williams said, “That’s the good stuff.”

You can follow Amanda Beard at her website or on Facebook.

Good Luck Amanda!