My Personal GRIT Story


Grit in psychology is a positive, non-cognitive trait based on an individual’s passion for a particular long-term goal or end state, coupled with a powerful motivation to achieve their respective objective. This perseverance of effort promotes the overcoming of obstacles or challenges that lie within a gritty individual’s path to accomplishment, and serves as a driving force in achievement realization.”

Imagine a young little brown girl. She is the youngest of three girls in her family, grew up on limited means and raised on government assistance. Her mother is a single parent who worked in a factory full time (still does to this day). No one she knows in her family has ever been to college. Her father died when she was 14 and she never got to attend his funeral. He was a troubled man with lots of potential she heard. This little girl struggled many times to find her way. She was ambitious and energetic i.e. “hyper.” Curious to try new things and this got her into mischief, trouble and many accidents. Most of her young life she was told, “Just sit still! You’re too hyper! Why can’t you just behave?” As she grew up she tried every sport imaginable- softball, basketball, volleyball, gymnastics, swimming, track and field, cheerleading, and soccer, but it soccer that she fell in love with. It was soccer that made her finally feel like she had a place to belong. It was soccer that would save her.

Mi familia! Poor but rich in love and togetherness.
My last day of Headstart!

Despite soccer this girl would grow up hearing messages from other adults that she would never amount to anything. That she was not as bright or as well off. That she was “just too much.” She would get into trouble and hang out with the wrong crowd, be ostracized in school and many adults gave up on her because of this. They felt sorry for her…except her mother. Despite her mother working so hard most of the time and not really knowing what the future would hold she encouraged the little girl to keep dreaming. So she did and she kept playing soccer. Through soccer the little girl was exposed to the different lives of her teammates and the little girl started dreaming about having something like that for herself. The little girl wanted a different kind of life. Somewhere along the line she started to believe that college was the ticket to a way out…out of limitation…out of lack. College was the way to another (different) kind of life. As luck would have it she would make her way to college, Eastern Michigan University (EMU). EMU was good for the girl. She still struggled and had many many many ups and downs but she found her way. With the help of friends, mentors and role models who believed in her she found her way.

My sorority sisters de Lamba Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, Inc.

“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity” –Seneca, Roman philosopher

“Lucky people generate their own good fortune via four basic principles. They are skilled at creating and noticing chance opportunities, make lucky decisions by listening to their intuition, create self-fulfilling prophesies via positive expectations, and adopt a resilient attitude that transforms bad luck into good. Are you a lucky or unlucky person? Or, to put it more precisely, are you prepared to be lucky?” –Melani Pinola for Lifehacker

My mom and I crying on graduation day.  I dreamt of this day to make her proud and to show her that her struggles weren’t for nothing.

Fast-forward almost 20 years and this girl is now a (licensed) doctor of clinical psychology with a specialization in sport psychology. She is one of about two-dozen psychologists in the country working fulltime in a Division I intercollegiate athletics department. She is the principle researcher on one of the first ever studies examining grit and first-year D1 student-athletes. She has lived all over the country- New York, Washington D.C., Florida, Kansas, and currently California. She was chosen as a research fellow at the world leading research center, the National Institutes of Health, and worked under the direction of the greatest research minds in the area of clinical brain disorders. She has worked in medical centers and universities all over the country with amazing mentors and supervisors. She has been published in scientific journals, books, mainstream media publications such as Shape Magazine, Triathlete Magazine, and Runners World. She has worked with elite and professional athletes all over the country. She has competed in her own athletic endeavors all over the country. She was chosen by the Sacramento Business Journal 40-Under-40 rising professionals in the area. Among many other accomplishments she lives a very different life than the one she grew up in. She lives a life that she greatly values and loves because of what it took to create it and…GRIT.

My husband (then boyfriend), my rock and my biggest believer. Truly Team K & G!
2015 40-Under-40 Winners

I weep when I read this story, my story, because of how grateful I am to have never given up on what I believed was possible for myself and for my family, that despite the pain and suffering I always knew in my heart that it was for a reason, and that nothing and no experience ever goes wasted. Wanting more for my family and myself were my driving forces for most of my life. There are many moments when I still can’t believe THIS IS MY LIFE. Even when I rose to the ranks of “success” I still had dream-busters and people telling me I didn’t have what it takes or that I was too different. Well guess what?! IT.DOES.NOT. MATTER. Because of my personal grit story. It IS my individuality. It IS my LUCK. It IS MY WILDCARD. My wildcard to “play” when I think the odds are stacked against me. To “play” when someone underestimates me.” To “play” even when I still doubt myself. To “play” when I face the unknown and the uncomfortable.

So, my reason for this post…YOU! The reason for me going through all I did in life…YOU! The reason I will not stop seeking new challenges and opportunities…YOU! The purpose of my blog started to share with you all. To “recycle” my experiences into something positive that other people could relate to. To share with you that I too know what it is like to feel pain, discouragement, disappointment, abandonment, fear, worthlessness, hopelessness, lack, limitation, etc. I HAVE been there and been through it. Maybe not the exact same situations or incidents but I know the feeling. I sit daily with people in the midst pain and vulnerability and have see myself in each one of them. We are not different. If I can start from the bottom and get here, then so can you. It will not be easy but it will be worth it- and I KNOW you have it in YOU. I believe in you because I believe in ME!

GRIT is something I can get down with, because even when I was told I didn’t have the intelligence, my grit, my persistence and perseverance told me otherwise.
So if you ever doubted or questioned or need affirmation that YOU can accomplish that dream in your heart, well, HERE IT IS! This IS your sign. I am YOUR mirror reflecting back to you what is possible. It was because I saw what was possible in others lives along my journey that helped me believe it was possible for my life. So, THANK YOU to everyone that has been on my path because you truly showed me it was possible.

Keep shining gritty peeps! With mucho love and light,
Dr. G

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Dr. Gloria Petruzzelli

Dr. Petruzzelli is a clinical sport psychologist, triathlete, and certified mindfulness meditation teacher located in Sacramento, California. She works with elite athletes and sports teams across the country. She is a competitive athlete and enjoys practicing yoga, spending time with her family, and traveling.