Casualties of Self Doubt

Personal Blog Nosh Magazine {Originally posted on From the Cheap Seats}

I was hunched over, my hands on my knees and my breath escaping in small bursts. I looked up and watched her as she continued on. She was like a machine, her arms and legs moving forward in a silent rhythm.

“She’s an elite runner, you know,” he said. His gruff voice forced me up. I held the heaving breaths and busied my shaking hands by brushing the snow from my sweatshirt. The pains in my side subsided, pushed out by an undefinable shame.

I wasn’t good enough.

I was a runner in grade school and high school. Running drove me, it fed a need I never quite understood. I had such a passion for the feel of sweat dripping down my back, the heaving of my chest, the tightness in my legs. I felt alive. And when I crossed a finish line, taking the #1 stick or reaching for the first place ribbon, I was alive. I was most definitely good enough.

College was different. I wasn’t the superstar runner. I was a struggling freshman who had no idea what she was doing. Who packed on extra weight, got a first boyfriend, lost her first boyfriend all while navigating the campus as a socially awkward entity waiting for a clue.

But that’s just an excuse. The truth–I simply wasn’t good enough.

“Some people are just born to run,” my coach continued as the snow began to drift across the track. “You’ll be a good running partner for her. Once you get into shape, ” he added smugly, mercilessly. My eyes followed her as she ran passed us, the snow politely parting for each footfall.

It was one of our very first practices of the season. My coach had already lost faith in me. I had lost faith in myself. Suddenly, I didn’t want to run anymore.

But I did. I ran because I had to. I ran because he said I wasn’t good enough. I ran because I had to show him that I was.

Every day I ran. Before practice. After practice. Weekends. I pushed my body until it begged for a reprieve–and even then, I pushed harder. There was little doubt that I was improving. But coach never noticed. He was working with the elite runners. And when his eyes did drift over in my direction, I knew what he was thinking, “Why does she even bother?” Some days, I wondered the same thing.

Short of drinking a raw egg, I was Rocky. Theme songs bumped around in my head, forcing me to push my aching body just one more mile. Just. One. More.

Trying hard now
it’s so hard now
trying hard now

Getting strong now
won’t be long now
getting strong now

Our first meet. I had only one race–200 M. The “elite” runner had the favored first lane while I occupied the last lane of the staggered start. I would be in the lead for only a few moments before the crowd of runners would overtake me.

Pop. The gun goes off as I push my foot forcefully from the starting block. I can’t see any of the runners, but I hear their heavy breaths and quick steps in a rush behind me. As we make the turn we are all in a straight line headed for the finish.

I am behind.

But only for a moment.

I surge ahead and pick off a runner at a time. One. Two . . . Five. Six.

I’m in first place as I cross the finish line.

I win.

I remember what this felt like. The rush. The release. The pats on my back. The congratulatory sentiments. I remember . . .

And I feel nothing. Nothing.

I see him make his way across the field. He’s pumping his fist in the air and shouting, “Where in the hell did that come from?” He grips my shoulders with both hands and looks at me for the first time.

I want so desperately to smile, to take it all in. But I can’t. I don’t. I look across the lanes to the “elite” runner. She’s hunched over, her hands on her knees . . .

My fingers slowly touched the cool dull metal of my spikes as I placed them in the Nike box; the medals I had won during the season spread out on the bottom. It was a good season. I pushed my spike key into the front of my shoe and tucked the laces inside. I shoved the box under my bed and walked away.

I had proved myself to someone who didn’t believe in me. To someone who barely gave me a chance. I proved that I had a talent, that I was good enough.

I was an after school special on how tenacity, drive and determination could mean success.

I hated those specials. They tried too hard and I resented them for it. I resented those who claimed that because of my coach, his doubt, he pushed me and I was better for it. Better? Maybe a better runner, a stronger athlete, but a better person? No. Not better.

The reality, my reality–I was done running. Running had become a casualty of my own self-doubt. While my body forced itself across the finish line race after race, the rest of me grew angry and distant. It was no longer about the running.

Having doubts is natural and in some cases, necessary–I get it, I accept it. But there comes a time when the heaviness of such doubts lingers longer than it should, when the cacophony of voices questioning your value, your abilities fails to hush–especially when it is about something you love, a passion you believe shapes and defines who you are. Especially if he or she who doubts you is a member of your family, a lover, a friend.

“Am I really good at this?” you wonder. “Can I do this?” you ask yourself.

No. You know that is what they think, what they believe they know. They don’t believe in you, no matter what they say, no matter how beautiful the words scratched upon the page–they are merely creations posing as truths.

Trying hard now
it’s so hard now
trying hard now

Getting strong now
won’t be long now
getting strong now

You’ll find your place at the starting line again and prepare to prove them wrong.

And, in the end, you’ll make room for yet another box under your bed.

Editor’s Pick by MommyTime at Mommy’s Martini.  LaskiGal’s blog, From the Cheap Seats, was one of the very first I discovered when I delved into the world of reading blogs.  I can’t recall now how I found her, but she successfully set my standards incredibly high as a reader.  It seems like every time she puts fingers to keyboard, she produces something so thoughtful that I find myself getting introspective about my own life too.  I expect, now that she’s very recently had her second child, that I will learn something from her about how to parent a son and daughter that I haven’t already figured out, even though I’ve had both for over three years.  If you’d like to read the original post with comments, you can. Or subscribe. The great-writing lover in you will not be disappointed.

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2 Comments to “Casualties of Self Doubt”

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