Ever feel like you don't belong?
The day before the Tulsa Run I had to pick up my race packet. I drove to OU Tulsa and entered the "Fitness Fair." The name alone gave me a mild panic attack: "will they let me in? I'm not wearing my fitness clothes, I don't have a cute ponytail or blonde highlights. Someone will know I'm an impostor. But, I have to get that packet if I want my official time." I really want my official time. (Pretty good, by the way.)
If I thought the name of the fair was bad, inside was waiting a veritable gauntlet of gorgeous: someone cloned Denise Austin, dressed the many of her all up in running gear and made a human tunnel for me to run through. I did not belong here. My mouth went dry. My throat closed up. I looked about anxiously, trying to pretend like I was totally supposed to be here and I know what I'm doing, okay? I found the letter where my packet would be and, because my name has many letters that are unpronounced, the helpful fitness guy couldn't find my name. It took him forever. I started to sweat. "Oh, crap. They can't find it. I didn't register right. They know I can't finish the race so they pulled my name. Someone alerted them. Would it be bad if I started crying, right here, right now?" By now, I was so upset I almost didn't want to get in line for my t-shirt.
But I wanted that t-shirt, because, I told myself, if by some act of God I was able to cross the finish line, I planned to wear that t-shirt to every single public event I could get myself invited to. I did get my t-shirt (in a size smaller, thankyouverymuch), I booked it out there to find a glass of water and the privacy of my car.
That's when the "I-don't-belong-heres" kicked into overdrive. I started thinking about the race the next day. If there were Denise Austins all over the "Fitness Fair," what in the world would I find at the starting line? I swallowed hard and tried to calm my racing heart.
And here's what I did. I told myself the facts. I trained for this race. I trained well and hard. I ran that distance and farther and did not die from it. I knew a good pace. I knew how I would find it. And I told myself the biggest truth: I can do this. I needed just a bit more, though, so I talked to my runner friends, who repeated faithfully back to me what I'd already told myself. I called my husband who repeated faithfully, lovingly back to me what I'd already told myself. I looked at the cloud of witnesses: I'm not crazy. People I love and people I trust and people who know things think I can do this. Time to face the truth. I can do this. I will do this. I did do this.
It creeps up on us like a ghost, whispers its ugly lies in our ears and we swallow the whole thing in one gulp, choking it down like bad medicine when it's really poison. "You don't belong here," it hisses. "You might be running, but you're not a real runner." Quietly, the sound winds into our heads and we think, "I'm kind of sucking it up here today. I can't do it. I should stop.It says all the things the wicked witch would tell you.
But guess what? The wicked witch was undone with a bucket of water. Just a little bit of H2O and she melted away. Know what else? The wicked witch is fiction! Doesn't exist. Never did, never will. I've come to think of those lies the same way, because really, that's what they are. Lies are fictions that keep us from trying the challenges we want to face, from stepping up to something new, from embracing the uniqueness we each have.
I shook my head. I refused to listen to the voice that said "But, honey," so sweetly and earestly, "honey, it's nine miles. That's craziness." I spoke back to that lie and told it to bug off. Because yes, nine miles is far, it ain't no big thang. "But," I said, "I've run that distance before and farther. I can do it again.You think I can't run nine miles? Watch me." And I did. I ran the entire race, without music, in a crowd of fat, skinny, ugly, pretty, tall, short, weird, weirder, slightly less weird people who all had to talk themselves into that challenge. Maybe it was easier for some. But we all got our booties out of bed, refused to listen to that lie and ran our race. I changed my thinking. Finishing that race would not be by an act of God (although He did run with me; we had a great time). It would be the result of training.
It's not easy, especially if you're used to obeying the voice, trusting the lie. It can feel as if the world is askew, or even just wrong or arrogant to say, "I can do this one thing, and well." When I first started running, I would say I "run" using air quotes, "I'm not a runner." So people would know I'm not high on my own ability. Some people would say, "I'm impressed" and I would want to shun that, to reject it. Oh, how times have changed. You wanna be impressed with me? You go right ahead, because the truth is, I'm impressed with me. I set my eyes on a challenge and I completed it. I rock.
I no longer choose to believe the lie. In fact, I reject everything that says that I'm not good enough, not smart enough, not thin enough, not whatever enough. I am me. I do what I do. And that is what is required of me. No one is asking me to be anything other than what I am. Any restrictions on me I've either placed there myself, or allowed them to be placed on me.
Know what else? I'm as impressed with myself as I am impressed by the women around me. You all are amazing bunch. You run businesses and homes. You build companies, you build children, you create great art. You run, you walk, you listen, you cheer. You take photos, you write, you climb mountians, you wipe dirty bums and change yet another diaper. You are you and you do what you do. I want you to be as impressed with your self as you are with someone else. Look in that mirror and be your own Jack Handy.
How? At first you may not believe yourself when you say, "Look at me! I'm so awesome." You might even giggle, looking around to see if you were overheard. You may roll your eyes. "This is stupid." Might be stupid, but feels good, doesn't it? There is no rule that says valuing yourself equals arrogance or pride. But, it does equal a lesson for our daughters and sons and a way to live in the world as we were created. Do it. Tell yourself you're awesome. Find one awesome thing about you. Not about what you do, but about you.
Again, I'm not saying talk yourself into running nine miles, or summiting Everest. I'm just saying say no to the lie and believe the truth. You may not know the truth, or you disregarded it for so long you have to dig for it. Then dig for it. You can do hard things. You can do big things, amazing things, astounding things.
When did it become okay for us to demure, to demean, to devalue ourselves? I don't know, but I've decided it's not okay for me and it's not okay for my daughters (or my son). Who's with me?