Shawn Johnson opens up about life after the Olympics

Shawn Johnson spoke to a packed house in Baldwin Auditorium Friday night.

Former Olympian and Dancing with the Stars champion Shawn Johnson made a stop in the Heartland Friday night.

Johnson spoke to Truman State University students and community members about three defining moments in her life.

To everyone's surprise, winning that Olympic Gold medal for the balance beam isn't one of those defining moments.

Instead, Johnson pointed to several struggles she's faced that have shaped her into the woman she is today.

One of those struggles is something many young children face, exclusion from their peers at school.

"I think it just, it forced me to be my own person. I feel like a lot of kids find their worth in who they are in other people and not in themselves. They become other people, and with me since I didn't necessarily fit in, since I didn't go into social groups and clubs, I had to be my own person, and I was really thankful for that because it made me a stronger person throughout my life and it's something that I can kind of teach other kids too," said Johnson.

Johnson believes those early struggles prepared her to face the more daunting self doubt that accompanied the pressures of performing on an international platform.

"The pressure is overwhelming, it can crush a person. You know it's the few who are able to stay strong that really make it far, and it's hard to build yourself up that strong, but that's what it takes," said Johnson.

Johnson was favored to win an Olympic Gold medal in the 2008 all around competition, but she's proud to say she earned the silver medal that day.

Johnson feels she emerged from the 2008 Olympic Games a stronger person as a result of the harsh criticism she was subjected to following her perceived "loss" that day.

"I think I take away from the Olympics more than anything that I was stronger than I believed I was. I feel like I went through every possible life experience over the course of the four weeks of the Olympic games. Went into the Olympics like a 16 year old girl and came out kind of a grown up, I feel like, and I don't know, it's built me up for the rest of my life," said Johnson.

Life after the Olympics hasn't slowed down at all for Johnson. Not only has she competed on Dancing with the Stars and Dancing with the Stars - All Stars, but her free time is filled with charitable work, mentoring you athletes and lots of travel.

"I don't know how my life has changed because I've never really known any different, I grew into it. It's chaotic, it changes everyday, it's never the same. I travel all the time, barely ever home, but it's fun. I get to truly do what I love and doors and opportunities have opened that I never imagined," said Johnson.

Johnson is very grateful for everything her Olympic experience taught her, and although her competition days are behind her, she still has big goals for the future. Right now her sights are set on college, Vanderbilt to be exact, and one day she hopes to support other athletes in their endeavors.

"I want to study in college sports psychology and nutrition, in the hopes that I can start a company, an organization that helps mentor young female athletes not just in the sport psychology side of it, but the nutrition. Giving them kind of a friend, not a professional, not an official nutritionist, but someone they really trust and feel is like a friend, that they can confide in. Hopefully that can kind of direct them in a path that's more suitable for the rest of their life, and not just something they have to figure out on their own," Johnson said.

To view KTVO's full interview with Shawn Johnson click here.