Surrender the Yips

When Simone Biles left the floor at the 2020 Summer Olympics with a case of the twisties, my own heart twisted like a wrung washcloth. I know that helpless feeling.  I also know from experience that trying to control the yips by force is like trying to hold down a wet cat to take a stool sample.

Yips, or twisties in gymnastics-ese, is technically defined as an athlete’s loss of ability to perform a skill that used to come easily. Think of an all-star hitter suffering through a painful summer of swings and misses or a pro golfer chasing the ball around a simple putt.

I would argue that yips aren’t just for athletes. I’ve spent more than a few moments with my own case of them. Early in my career, despite my history of A-game triumphs, my confidence suddenly crashed. For no good reason. At first, I denied it, tried working above it and overcompensated by bluffing. But things unraveled anyway. I began getting lesser work assignments. I looked at everyone around me as a threat. I recoiled into my cubicle. I blamed my mother. I cried in the bathroom stall with my head between my knees. I had no idea what to do to keep from freefalling.

So, I let go.

Just sharing my suffering out loud seemed to send my yips scurrying like roaches in a spotlight.

I admitted to myself that 1. Something was happening. This wasn’t my imagination. 2. Sheer will was powerless over it. 3. I had to come clean.

So, I talked to my boss. Surprisingly, she had her own yips yarn to share. And she thanked me for admitting to what she had already suspected. But instead of chastising me for my poor work performance, she encouraged me to hold on for better. She knew my yips didn’t define me.

Just sharing my suffering out loud seemed to send my yips scurrying like roaches in a spotlight. Having someone listen and empathize gave me hope. I left her office feeling stronger. It wasn’t long before I was back in the flow.

This lesson in letting go extends to other areas of my life. My need to control others has diminished, which makes everyone’s lives easier. I’ve realized that others have their own path, and it’s not mine. Surrender has made me a better parent, spouse and co-worker. Even my neighbors come out and say hi instead of scurrying into their house to avoid my mentioning for the fortieth time in as many days the hedge on their side of the property that needs trimming. The job got done. Eventually.

Do I still get the yips? Of course. They just don’t last as long because I know the remedy. I pry my fingernails from the surface of my insecurity and let go. I may not always stick the landing, but I always land where I’m supposed to land.

If you think you’re immune to the yips, think again. Like COVID, they don’t discriminate. They don’t care who you are, how much money you make or what team you root for. But yips are little cowards once exposed to the light. You just need to shine on and let ‘em run. Because they will.


I’m currently working on a novel. (I know, isn’t every blogger?) Here’s a little bit about it:

Published by Missy Kavanaugh-Carryer

Missy Kavanaugh-Carryer is a content writer and author of two children's books and a board book series for young children. She's currently working on her first novel.

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