Embracing Imperfection with Every Step

“Running is the greatest metaphor for life, because you get out of it what you put into it.”
Oprah Winfrey

My Dad sat me down mid-summer before I was to be a junior in high school. He said, “let’s talk about what you are going to do in terms of sports for this Fall.” He was doing this from the mentality of “using your best strengths for success.” I was playing three sports a year and really only excelling in Track every Spring. I have my Mom’s genetic height of 5’1 and a naturally petite build. I also have a personality that thrives on competition, winning, and giving everything in athletics 100%. It was during this conversation that my Dad and I first spoke of me running Cross Country this fall instead of Girl’s Basketball.  I remember thinking huh; this could be a real thing.

So at this age I embarked on my newest hurdle in life and joined the school’s Cross Country team. Lake Michigan Catholic’s all male Cross Country team. I didn’t just make my first feminist move at the age of 16 I set a personal challenge to myself. There was teasing, some struggles, and many challenges associated with this new adventure. Some of my peers thought I had completely lost my mind. I didn’t take this new endeavor lightly and challenged myself in every practice, with every weight repetition, and at every meet to give it my best. My hard work paid off. I was all conference (the old Red Arrow conference) by the end of the season and I had the support of my team behind me.

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(Photo of me after our Cross Country banquet with all conference medals)

I look back at this time and am grateful I followed my parent’s guidance to work on something I was already good at and to become greater. This was also something I loved to do and loved the challenge it brought. I continued on with Cross Country my senior year as well. My love affair with running continued and enhanced when I began my undergraduate education at Michigan State University in 2002. MSU has an amazingly beautiful campus; in the Fall especially. I am a small town girl who graduated from a small private high school. Running gave me a sense of inclusion and community as I daily lapped around campus. I felt my body growing stronger and my confidence with my decision to choose MSU strengthened as well.

The toll of life happening took running as a norm out of my daily routine. I would occasionally hit the trails, but not for long enough to build endurance, a routine, or get back into the mindset of running I once had. I kept in shape with healthy eating (the best I could), group fitness classes, outdoor am boot camp, and walking as often as possible. I am a workaholic by nature and often put work ahead of making time to exercise.

You could say I lost my identity as a “runner” along my way in my late 20s.

Last October I was attacked in a way no human being should ever be. I will not go into details of this, as I wish to respect the East Lansing police department’s investigation and my desire for justice to be served.  The spiral of events at this time had me relocate back to being with family. To say I felt lost would be an understatement. As I sat in the back seat of my parent’s SUV during a trip of moving some of my belongings home; we saw a young women running. My Mom pointed her out and said to me, “that is exactly what you need to be doing, that would be very good for you right now.” I allowed my mind to swirl back to the scenery of my favorite running locations. I reflected back to my cousin saying to me, “what do you mean you don’t run anymore? That has always been your thing.” She was not the first person to point that out to me in the past year. “Why DON’T I run anymore I thought?”

I didn’t have a good answer.

I rang in 2015 on crutches due to a fractured pelvis. I used my injury and physical therapy as a reason for why I was not getting regular cardio. I laced up a few times in the summer to run or sprint intervals. The end result was always being too sore to continue the next day. I often would feel dejected I didn’t have the endurance and speed I’d had at 18. (Because its totally realistic to be in the same athletic shape 13 years later, right?)

Still I had the confidence to start again; why wasn’t I finishing? Why wasn’t I competing with myself and doing something I used to love? “Why wasn’t I running anymore? Where was the mental disconnect?”

I discovered Dr. Brene Brown and her teachings in 2015. As I mulled over my disconnect with exercise and cardio I thought back to some of her thoughts on perfectionism. I reflected back to one of her quotes, “When perfectionism is driving…..shame is always riding shotgun.” AHA moment! I wasn’t running because I no longer loved it, I was fixated on beating myself up for no longer being in running shape. For no longer lacing up daily and easily raking up a few miles. I was fixated on how imperfect I currently was with my running game and not embracing the challenge in front of me (and I love a good challenge!)

I reflected back to myself at 16. I didn’t join an all male Cross Country team because I thought it was going to be perfect. The boldness of making this move was the definition of imperfect….possibly imperfect madness. And boy did I love the challenge of imperfect madness! If I could look beyond perfectionism and be openly vulnerable to something at 16, I needed to break down the barriers I had set up at 31 and do just the same.

I laced up again mid November 2015 with this attitude and the realization of needing some major self-care. I reactivated my Nike Run app on my phone and took off. I also started off slow knowing that the perfect 5K run from day one wasn’t going to happen. Instead of being upset I only went for a mile or two; I celebrated the fact that I ran another day. I set smaller weekly and monthly goals to have mini victories. I tracked every run with this app and relished the small increase in miles. I literally felt myself start to hit my stride!

I am not at my perfect running speed today. I am very proud to have run 70 miles in December, and headed towards more miles in January with 21.1 already logged as of January 8th. I am proud of feeling myself grow physically stronger and faster. I’m prouder of healing mentally and feeling my confidence grow with every run logged. I am the most proud of embracing being imperfect and growing more comfortable in my skin. I know there will be times when I need a “rest day” or may have to adjust a missed run by taking a few longer ones. This is ok. I will be okay when these things happen and continue on my pursuit of running.

My identity as a runner is back. 5K anyone?

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(Photo taken with @NikeRunning app after a run outside in December 2015)

Sometimes it’s hard to keep on running
We work so hard to keep it going ~No Doubt~

 

 

 

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The Measuring Stick of Social Media

My Own Personal Musings on Social Media and the Positive/Negative Effects on Self Esteem

Every morning, like millions of Americans, I start my day by tuning into the news, enjoying a cup of coffee, glancing through emails, and checking my social media accounts. I am already in touch with thousands of other social media “friends” or users by looking through my Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts.  I have a chance to wish friends Happy Birthday via reminders, view posted musings about politics and global news, and smile back at posted photos. So in a nutshell; every morning I have already exposed myself to thousands of others putting their best foot out there. Every morning I have already challenged and compared myself to what others have showcased to the world via their social media accounts.

But why?

Social media is a main connecting point for millions of users. Its a way I can stay in touch with former college friends, past work colleagues, and acquaintances along the way. I see my friends posting their accomplishments of new jobs, promotions, engagement announcements, amazing feats of cooking accomplishments, nights out socializing, fitness milestones, new children, and in my age demographic (31), lots of photos of their young children doing adorable things. I am single, currently job searching, recently moved, and also not: with a cute child to share, engagement photo album, craftathon, 8 layer creation, or more to showcase to the world at this time. So by my own standards of being “enough” and perfectionism; by engaging in social media every morning I have already established I am less than others. I am allowing myself to believe that I am not enough and not living the ideal perfection life I had sought out to live.

So I have to ask myself….Is Social Media fostering my own inadequacies, quest to perfection, journey to break through the façade of perfectionism? Is social media making me feel less than? Is this an overwhelming factor in our society that we are breeding these feelings of inadequacy and creating a measuring stick of where our lives should be?

In an interview between legendary talk show host Oprah Winfrey and renounced shame researcher Dr. Brene Brown, Winfrey talks about her aha moment with perfectionism. Dr. Brown tells Oprah. “It’s… a way of thinking and feeling that says this: ‘If I look perfect, do it perfect, work perfect and live perfect, I can avoid or minimize shame, blame and judgment.’ Winfrey had the following to respond to Brown’s statement of perfectionism.

“This was my other aha [moment]!” Oprah says, giving Dr. Brown a high-five. “Perfectionism is the ultimate fear… People who are walking around as perfectionists… They are ultimately afraid that the world is going to see them for who they really are and they won’t measure up.”

AHA!

So in an essence, social media is a way to foster the image of a having a perfect life. Its a cultural identity crisis to mold what we want our social media friends to see. Its how we want the world to perceive our world to be. I am guilty of this too. I frequently post my runs with the Nike Run App. In my mind its a part of holding myself accountable to achieving these goals and allowing others to encourage and celebrate in my victories. To play devil’s advocate there is not a chance in hell I am going to post anything about having a day filled with overindulging in food, and non gumption to exercise. After all, this would make me human and showcase to the world what I perceive as an imperfection. Its the same way that I would not put up an unflattering photo of myself as a selected profile picture. I too am the person that crops the best photo of myself, uses instagram, and chooses to put that image of myself out there. I own this.

So I have to ask if being authentic and human is putting it all out there, what IS the appropriate way to showcase yourself via social media? What are the ways to combat feelings of inadequacies via social media usage? How do we show empathy for an individual sharing a struggle via social media without judgment? How do we engage in social media as a way to connect, share ideas, and enjoy our celebrations of life as well as our own? How do we put down the measuring stick?