Until recently, being an athlete was not nearly as joyous as it is now. I enjoyed the challenge of physical activity and benefitted from exercising in many ways, but there was always a little voice in my mind whispering that I wasn’t good enough to be running with the “big boys.”
I found my lack of natural athletic ability to be quite embarrassing. It now seems silly that I compared myself to people who had been athletes most of their lives. Concerned that people might be impatiently waiting for me to cross the finish line, I actually cried instead of celebrating at the end of some races.
There have been a few events in which I’ve participated that the finish line had been taken down, the awards ceremony had already started, or they had run out of medals and post race food by the time I finished.
After failing to live up to standards set when comparing myself to others, I would go back and train even harder, trying to get my performance up to whatever level I thought was acceptable. I overtrained and injured myself, putting the damper on running for an extended period of time.
I have recently discovered an important truth that has transformed my thinking: Comparing yourself to others will rob you of joy.
I abandoned many attempts at weight loss in the past because of that very reason. Others seemed to be able to lose weight quicker. After comparing my efforts to those who appeared to be more successful, I would give up, concluding I just wasn’t cut out for this weight loss thing.
I’m not as svelte as many of my friends; I can’t run as fast as the majority of runners; I don’t ride my bike with the speed and skill of many other cyclists; and my swimming is definitely work in progress.
I don’t play the clarinet well enough to play professionally full time, nor is our home always pristine enough for drop-in company. However, my unique blend of being a clarinet-playing, bike-riding, music-teaching, swimming runner who likes to write and cook is not quite like anyone else’s recipe. Comparing myself to others and falling short is no longer a road block to pursuing what I love.
I will continually try to become better at everything I do because I want to be the best I can be with what I’ve been given.
Am I doing the best I can for me, that I’m capable of, on this day? Most days, I can answer that with a resounding yes, but there are other days I’m a slacker. I’m the only one who can ultimately determine if I’m putting forth my best effort on any given day.
I finished my first triathlon season this past weekend, completing three triathlons during the past five months. I’ve experienced great joy being a part of the entire triathlon experience: swimming in lakes, riding my bike and running to the finish line. I’ve made great new friends and can’t wait until next year when my second triathlon season will begin.
My change in thinking has made the sport of triathlon as joyful as it has been. I no longer dwell on my performance compared to others, but instead I celebrate that I was able to cross the finish line.
I will continue to celebrate the unique blend of my gifts, while always striving to be the best I can be. The next time you find yourself stuck in neutral, not wanting to live life to the fullest because you don’t think you measure up, I invite you to abandon your thoughts of inferiority.
Put your life in drive and move forward with gusto.
Lee Anne Grace is an elementary music teacher for Tupelo Public Schools. After reaching a weight of almost 300 pounds and failing at numerous diets for over 25 years, she has been successful maintaining her weight loss for more than three years.