How to Redefine Your Limitations With Paralympic Gold Medalist Mallory Weggemann

Mallory Weggeman

Verywell / Julie Bang

Every Monday on The Verywell Mind Podcast, Editor-in-Chief Amy Morin, LCSW, interviews experts, authors, entrepreneurs, athletes, musicians, and other inspirational people about the strategies that help them think, feel, and do their best in life.

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Meet Mallory Weggemann

Mallory Weggemann began swimming competitively at age 7. But, in 2008, an injection that was supposed to treat her back pain left her paralyzed from the waist down. Three months after her injury, she returned to swimming. She went on to break 24 American Records, 15 World Records, and she is a gold medalist in the paralympics. 

She’s also the author of a great book called Limitless: The Power of Hope and Resilience to Overcome Circumstance. 

Why Mallory Weggemann Is Mentally Strong

Mallory couldn’t control her circumstances. But, she took control of her attitude. She chose to continue swimming competitively after her injury. And even though things were a lot different for her after becoming paralyzed, she chose to keep striving to reach her greatest potential. 

What You’ll Hear on the Show

  • How Mallory chose to respond to her injury
  • How she pushed herself to do hard things
  • The misconceptions people have about grief and “moving on”
  • How Mallory deals with other people’s opinions and comments about her capabilities
  • How swimming helps Mallory empower herself
  • How trauma can change you and how you can still move forward
  • How you can experience emotions that seem conflicting at the same time
  • How your most painful experiences can help you discover gratitude
  • Why having a sense of community is so important to well-being
  • How to turn your biggest challenges into opportunities to grow stronger

What You’ll Learn About Mental Health and Mental Strength

Your beliefs about your capabilities and your limitations affect every aspect of your life. If you believe you can’t do something, you won’t try. If, however, you’re willing to challenge your assumptions, you might discover that you’re more capable and competent than your brain gives you credit for.

If you view yourself as a helpless victim when you encounter problems, you likely won’t take any action to make things better. Consequently, your mental health will decline. 

If, however, you see yourself as someone who is able to tackle life’s toughest challenges, you’ll empower yourself to address problems head-on. That can help you stay mentally healthy during tough times.

Of course, not all problems can be solved. You can’t fix a family member’s health issue. And you can’t force someone with an addiction to change. But you can address how you feel about those problems. You can reach for healthy coping strategies to help you move through uncomfortable emotions in a helpful way.

Mallory talks a lot about her experiences with grief and the shifts in the way she viewed herself over time. She makes it clear that she continues to be a work in progress and there wasn’t a clear timeline on when she should work through her grief.

Quotes From Mallory

Mallory Weggeman

I didn't have the answers for what that life was going to look like. But I did know that very simple choice of choosing to get out of bed that next morning was such a big, pivotal moment.

— Mallory Weggeman
  • “I finally had to realize that at the end of the day, other people's perceptions of me and what I'm capable of, isn't a reflection of my true capabilities. It's a reflection of their insecurity.”
  • “I didn't like being seen as somebody who was disabled. I live with a disability, but I'm not disabled by my disability. And I'm not suffering from one.”
  • “There was a lot of power in my journey of finally understanding that there's not a right or wrong way to grieve.”
  • “Somewhere along the way, you're going to realize that when this is all said and done, you are stronger because of what you're facing right now. And you are going to grow into something far more beautiful than you ever could have dreamed possible.”

More About the Podcast

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By Amy Morin, LCSW
Amy Morin, LCSW, is a psychotherapist and international bestselling author. Her books, including "13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do," have been translated into more than 40 languages. Her TEDx talk,  "The Secret of Becoming Mentally Strong," is one of the most viewed talks of all time.