Insecurities. Anxieties. Uncertainties. Doubts. Fears. Lack of self-confidence. Lack of self-worth.
All of those words give me an unpleasant feeling in the pit of my stomach. I’m sure many of you could get on board with this: When I look back on some challenging times I’ve lived through, I wish my older self could hug my younger self and assure her that she would survive. She’d be stronger, wiser, kinder, and more compassionate after living these difficult days. (Sometimes I envision my current adult self suddenly “poofing” into my childhood bedroom via a cloud of smoke. Most likely, my pre-teen self would be sitting with my older sister reading Teen Beat magazine, listening to Debbie Gibson, discussing which New Kids on the Block posters to tape up on the wall, which is already completely covered with their photos. The idea of this scene actually makes me chuckle. But I digress…)
I’ve had a rough go of it lately with self-talk. A lot of self-doubt has been cropping up in my brain. The biggest question I live day-to-day is: Am I doing all I can do to be good enough as a mom, wife, employee, sister, and friend? Rationally I know the answer is yes. I give it my all most of the time, allowing for self-care as well. After the rational brain has spoken, the irrational side likes to speak up and say “Are you sure? There’s always more you could do. There’s always room for improvement.” Ughhhh! Who are you and where do you come from!?
I think that most of us experience this and wonder about questions like this from time to time. We all have multiple roles in this life, and most of us take these relationships and responsibilities very seriously (sometimes too seriously. Ahem). Gifting ourselves with the time to reflect on these big questions can help us become more confident and self-assured.
Even more intense for me right now is a growing quagmire of self-doubt that I experience when I run. It’s gotten so big and so bad lately that I regularly wonder if I would feel better about myself if I just stop trying and quit running. (And now I’m seeing just how ridiculous that sounds when I type the words out).
Here’s my current reality. My husband is a runner. In the past year, he has successfully shaved minutes off his pace per mile. He has also intentionally lost about 40 pounds. All of this is very admirable – he has worked very hard, has been committed to a healthy lifestyle, and has figured out what works for him. Recently, he has come home from runs repeatedly and told me things like “I can’t believe how fast my pace was!” or “I didn’t even feel like I was going as fast as my GPS told me I was!” Meanwhile, I have begun suffering from cement-in-shoes syndrome. When running, I have started to feel like I’m stuck in molasses. It feels like I’m barely moving. Every step is a struggle. When I compare myself to him, I feel like a failure, a slow poke, a loser. He is amazing and gives me great pep talks, but they don’t silence the bully in my own head. “I will never get faster. I will never actually enjoy running. Why am I making the effort to even try to be a runner?”
Spiraling into self-doubt about something you control with your own body is a very individual experience: On the surface, it doesn’t affect anyone but yourself. The reality is that it does affect others…Once you start feeling negativity, it will inevitably spew out and manifest in emotional reactions to those around you.
Here’s the deal: As humans, we tend to fill in the blanks. When we don’t know the whole story, we finish the ending ourselves. It’s like those “Choose Your Own Adventure” books, except you aren’t deciding how to escape a creepy ghost in a haunted house: Do I bolt up into the attic? Or do I slink down into the cellar? Think about the last time someone slighted you – a co-worker, acquaintance, friend, family member. If you reflect on it, you can probably admit that you didn’t know all the details of the situation and what caused this person to make the choices they did or treat you a certain way. So, you choose to fill in the blanks with fabricated details. These details are often based on our own insecurities, or they are “files” from things that happened to us before. Filling in the blanks in this way does nothing positive for anyone. It can cause you to feel hurt, even if it is totally unwarranted.
The same way we fill in the blanks in situations with others, we do for ourselves. We don’t always have the capacity to be our own cheerleader, and often resort to being our own punching bag. We don’t feel good/fulfilled/satisfied and we may not know why. We fill in the blanks with “It MUST be me. There is something wrong with me.” But wait…there has to be a better way, right? How do you stop this? Spoiler alert: You have the power to reprogram your internal monologue. Program it with a simple sentence that you can turn to when your internal bully wakes up.
“I am more than enough exactly as I am.”
“I am strong and powerful.”
“I am grounded.”
“I feel abundance all around me.”
“I can choose positive thoughts.”
“I love myself. I honor myself.”
The sense of self begins developing at a very young age. Psychologists agree that how a child feels about himself in the early years can set a pattern for the rest of his life. BUT, here is some wonderful and fantastic news: Forming one’s self-concept is a lifelong process. This means it’s not too late to think of yourself in a way that you never have, or in a way that you don’t do enough. Make the choice to love yourself and honor yourself. I promise I will work on it, too.
P.S. I sent this blog post to a colleague to proofread and among other things, she said, “Even at a slower pace, you’re still moving forward, that’s what counts in the end.” YAY for cheering others on!
Runner Girl is an OSC employee who enjoys writing and runs for the health benefits. She subscribes to a healthy lifestyle and plans to share tips about how we can all make simple changes to enhance our wellness.