Tuesday, November 2, 2010

How you Thinking?

Ever feel like you don't belong?

I have.

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?


  1. I'm with you, friend! I don't know where the devaluing comes from, but we have to stop it, and I happen to love how you did that:

    "I told myself the facts. ...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."

    I always learn so much from you, and I'm so very proud of you.

  2. Seriously thinking of using your opening line for my epitaph because the whole theme has played such a major role in my life. Sad, isn't it? Why do we do this to ourselves?

    For years in the corporate world, I second guessed myself, starting when I awoke, during the drive in, the walk to my desk, picking apart everything from my clothing, body image, hair, moving on to how I thought others viewed me, onward to picking apart my work, job performance and credentials. The harder I worked to overcome it - arriving earlier, working later, better clothes, perfect hair, diets, over-the-top work output, taking on the tough projects, always with a smile, on and on - the more I was viewed as intimidating yet all the while, I looked at myself as nothing.

    Oh it's a vicious cycle. At times I could shake it off as the day settled in, but most days I believed the lies I told myself. It's the ongoing battle that wears me out.

    This is a fantastic post. It will bring relief to many who need to hear again and again not to believe the lie. We are good enough.

    love, love -


  3. Oh my. I'm so glad I followed Kristen's tweet over here, because this was so a message I need to hear. Over and over again. Believing those negative voices is so. easy.

    "I want you to be as impressed with your self as you are with someone else."

    You've reduced me to tears this morning, but in the best possible way. Thank you so much for sharing this!

  4. "Find one awesome thing about you. Not about what you do, but about you."

    Great post. I too found you from Kristens tweet. As I head into running my first marathon this saturday I'm curious how I will feel.
    So much of my security in life has come from what I do that I have lost the ability to understand that I am awesome simply because I am. I'm slowly learning to shift my thinking.

  5. So much richness is these comments, you all astound. I'm always surprised by how different sentences resonate with different people. I love it. Kristin, thanks for reposting this and introducing me to some new awesome women! And for working with me to stop the madness of devaluing our selves.
    Karen, my virtual idea of you is so so different from what you tell me in your emails, tweets and comments. I have so much admiration for you and respect for your words. It breaks my heart to hear there is such a disconnect. And yet, I get it because isn't that what I experienced as described in this post? Thank you for being you.
    Alise, so wonderful to meet you. And so glad you found something of worth and value here (and in yourself.) Keep saying it. One day we'll all believe it.

    Esther, I am curious to know how you did in your marathon. I think you hit upon a note we all hear. Our world seems so independent, success-driven that when we meet new people we tell our job instead of WHO we are. Jobs are nothing to me but work. And yet we still define ourselves that way. You are awesome because you are you! Thanks for coming over here, and I'm so happy to have met you.

  6. Love this, too. How have I never visited your blog??

    I started running almost two years ago, something I'd avoided for years. Back in high school I had "used" running, as well as making myself throw up and eating way too few calories, to lose an unhealthy amount of weight/gain control (haha) and get male attention. I was legalistic about it, just like I was about my quiet time. So when I finally decided to become WELL, I had to stop counting calories, stop throwing up, stop running and stop having a frickin' quiet time. I literally had to put my Bible away.

    And I got well. Of course I will always be "disordered" about food/body image/control/the Bible ;) but I can eat food now. I don't feel all that guilt I used to. But I still hadn't tried running again. Even past the point where it stopped being about being sick. It was hard! I was happy to use my sickness as an excuse.

    So almost two years ago, when I started running, I was wanting to be strong. I was in an awful place in my marriage, a whole gamut of stuff I'd "stuffed" had come crashing down on me like one of those closets in the movies and I had to do something. So I ran. I started only being able to run a couple minutes, then walk, then run, etc. It was AWFUL. But I kept going. Within 3 months I could run for over an hour at a time, without stopping! I lost a few pounds but mostly I got stronger. I felt a lot of the same things you do: strong, proud and pretty damn impressed with myself!

    You wouldn't believe what's happened in the last year if I told you but suffice it to say, I almost completely stopped running. And now I'm back at it. It's still hard, but I'm not giving up. I KNOW NOW that I am a runner. My muscles remember still. I'm loving that chemical rush that I forgot about...when you get home from a long run and that wonderful chemical reaction happens.

    Anyway, just wanted to say....thanks for this. I feel energized, encouraged and it's nice to talk about this.

  7. Thank you and God bless your wonderful, insightful heart. This spoke directly to my soul and my inner, beaten down self. You rock, INDEED!