Ronda Rousey’s Identity Crisis Led To Suicidal Thoughts

rouseyIf the name Ronda Rousey sounds vaguely familiar but you’re not exactly sure who she is, you’re not alone. In 2015 she was the third most searched for person on Google.

Entering her match with Holly Holm on November 15, 2015, Rousey had never lost a fight as an amateur or professional And Rousey didn’t just win, she often crushed her opponent within the first minute of the match. But in the second round of their fight Holm knocked out the heavily favored Rousey with a violent kick to the head.

This past Tuesday Rousey appeared on the Ellen Degeneres Show–her first talk show appearance since her loss–and shared some very serious struggles that I think we can all learn from. Here’s an excerpt…

Asked by DeGeneres whether she had second thoughts about entering the ring again, Rousey, fighting back tears, said: “I was down in the medical room, sitting in the corner, and I was asking myself, ‘What am I any more if I’m not this?’”

“I was sitting there thinking about killing myself, thinking, ‘I’m nothing, what can I do any more? No one gives a s*** about me any more.

“Then I looked up and saw my man Travis [Stevens, an Olympic Judo athlete], and I thought, ‘I need to have his babies, I need to stay alive.’”

I appreciate Rousey’s honesty and vulnerability. It’s not easy to tell anyone, much less a syndicated television show audience, that you struggle with depression and suicidal thoughts. She said that it was the first time she’d ever shared this much with anyone other than Travis, her boyfriend. Ellen appropriately responded by saying that she appreciated Rousey’s transparency because a lot of people have similar thoughts but are too afraid to share them.

There’s a lot that we can learn from Ronda Rousey but let’s just focus on what gives her a sense of worth or what she looks to for her identity. Notice she was asking herself “What am I any more if I’m not this?” What am I if I am not a world champion, undefeated fighter? She was convinced that no one would care about her since she lost the fight and her title.

It reminds me of the first Rocky movie when Rocky Balboa is talking about going 15 rounds with Apollo Creed so that he can prove that he’s not a bum. Or in Chariots of Fire Harold Abrams saying that in the Olympic 100 meter dash he had 10 lonely seconds to justify his existence.

Everyone is looking to something or someone to define themselves, something to base their identity on. It might be their career or their appearance or success or being the smartest person in the room or having the most intelligent, best behaved, and most athletic kids. There is literally an endless list of things that we can look to for our sense of worth or value.

But the problem is that eventually, like Rousey, we all lose a fight. We get passed over for a promotion or put on a few pounds or make a bad decision or our kids hit a rough patch. The problems come when whatever we have based our identity on takes a hit and begins to crumble. When that happens it feels like our life is falling apart. It might lead to anxiety attacks or even suicidal thoughts.

Now pay attention to what happens next. Rousey said that what motivated her to keep living is that she saw Travis, her boyfriend, and thought that she needed to have his babies. While it’s great that she found a motivation to keep living, notice that all she did is switch her identity from one thing to another–from being an undefeated fighter to being a mom. But what happens if she and Travis prove to be unable to conceive or the kids have their own struggles. Will she end up back in the same spot–depressed and unsure of who she is?

Imagine a man who goes through a painful relational break up and a friend encourages him to get through it by forgetting about women and pouring himself into his career. He is doing the same thing that Ronda Rousey did…and the same thing we do. He’s transferring his identity from one thing to another but it’s still misplaced. Eventually his career will take a hit and life will begin to crumble again.

The only sure thing that we can build our identity on is Jesus. He is the only one that won’t let us down. In Jesus we are forgiven, loved, and adopted as sons and daughters. You might be a student or parent or business person or musician or runner. You might be known as funny, smart, attractive, or successful. But if you are a Christian none of those should be what you build your identity on. You are first and foremost a Christian, a sinner saved by grace, an orphan adopted by God, a servant of the true king, and one who God loves. That’s who you are. Build your life on Jesus because he can take every hit and will never crumble.

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