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Monday, June 17, 2024
The independent student publication of The University at Buffalo, since 1950

The fear of mediocrity

How do we cope with inadequate performances when we always need to be at our best?

I find it difficult to stay confident in myself. 

Despite proving to others that I can do great things, I struggle to tell the man in the mirror otherwise. I am a UB record holder in the indoor mile with a time of 4:05.78. 

But I still can’t picture myself as a top athlete in the country. 

Doubt is stopping me from becoming the best version of myself. 

As a third-year member of the men’s cross country and track team, I’m tasked with being in top physical shape for a large portion of the year. Being a three-sport athlete requires very few days off and an enormous amount of energy. 

I put in hours on end to achieve a specific goal: to continuously improve myself physically, emotionally and mentally. But personal growth does not come easy.

Running is an unforgiving sport. Some would say it’s an unrewarding one too. 

The idea of working toward a goal every single day, only to not achieve it, is terrifying. The fear of failure seeps in with every performance that isn’t my best. And that fear hurts. 

Failure is often considered one of life’s greatest teachers. We are meant to learn from our mistakes, to build off what we’ve learned in the process. We must fall in order to learn how to pick ourselves back up — whether on or off the track. 

And I’m no stranger to falling — both literally and figuratively. At the 2023 Mid-American Conference (MAC) Indoor Track & Field Championships, I was tripped and thrown to the ground halfway through the race. I was lying on the track, writhing in pain, when I realized: it was over. 

What could’ve been my best chance to win an individual medal was gone as quick as it came. It wasn’t necessarily my fault, but I couldn’t help but feel like a failure. All my hard work from the previous three months was thrown out the window. 

We all have a story like that. My track race is the same as someone’s exam. 

But you have to remember: not every day is going to be your best. Failure is a key part of life. 

In high school, I was allowed 24 hours to be upset over a performance. After that, it was back to the grindstone. Living in the past only holds you back from growing. 

Good performances create expectations. Expectations weigh heavy on your psyche. Expectations shouldn’t be a burden — they should be a reminder of the trust others have in you. 

Diamonds form under pressure. So do people. 

Running has provided me with some of the highest highs of my life. But it has also given me some of the lowest lows. All of these experiences have come together to forge who I am today. 

The opinion desk can be reached at


Evan Hilbert is an assistant sports editor at The Spectrum. He also is a three-season student-athlete with UB’s DI cross country, indoor track, and outdoor track team. He’s a fan of the Milwaukee Bucks, Newcastle United F.C., and the Buffalo Bills. 



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