Fear can make us act like idiots.
This post is NOT about the Coronavirus a.k.a. Covid-19, but what’s going on is a relevant example of the real consequences of fear-based behavior. The empty store shelves illustrate how our choices have negative, unintended consequences when rooted in fear rather than compassion, love and logic. While those hoarding canned goods and toilet paper are just trying to look out for their families and would never steal food from vulnerable people, that’s essentially the consequence.
How is this related to running and what I’m about to share with you? Fear has the potential to make us behave in destructive ways and that applies to pandemics and running injury alike. While I have not purchased more than I need at the store, I do feel particularly vulnerable to fear-based behavior due to running injury. Identifying fear-based behavior is a necessary step toward choosing healthier action. That is my motivation for sharing this very personal, yet not-all-that unique part of myself with you. I don’t think I’m an anomaly and I hope that by sharing, we can collectively identify how fear keeps us tethered to unhealthy behavior and cut that cord so that we can live up to our potential as strong, beautiful humans who take up space and share our gifts.
Surprise, surprise, my number one fear tied to injury is weight gain. I know, I want to roll my eyes and slap the cliche right out of my mouth too, but there’s a reason it has such a grip on women. While a few pounds is objectively no big deal, the judgement and stories tied to it are a powerful call to action. Body image is so intertwined with self worth and rooted in the fear of not being good enough or worthy of love – the perpetual lie that keeps us from this birthright. Add the cultural buy-in to this lie and the resulting loss of societal currency and the multitude of fears that stirs up, and we’ve got a recipe for disaster.
It might clarify things to mention that as of last week, I have an unofficial diagnosis (pending MRI confirmation) of a femoral stress reaction/fracture. I’ve moved pretty quickly from denial to acceptance compared to my experience last year at this time with Achilles Tendinitis. I’m still fat from that injury and hadn’t built back the level of fitness I had before that injury, so there was definitely less to “lose” this time around which is the one upside.
I thought by now, I would have made peace with my body, among other things, but nothing in life is static and the demons still scratch at the door with claws out. So over the years, I’ve been asking, “how can I develop a deep sense self worth as an adult and counteract all the messages to the contrary?”
I was inclined to believe the answer was the process of hard work and discipline involved in pursuing goals and achievements. I happen to be extremely driven, stubborn, and curious, so I took that route with moderate success. Though it was not the driving force behind my accomplishments, I certainly did think I would feel more whole having run 50 miles or hitting certain milestones in my career. While I am proud of my accomplishments, I can’t deny that they are tainted by self-doubt and I feel anxious as these accomplishments expire without shiny new ones to take their place. While they temporarily serve as proof points that I’m worthy… extraordinary, even, they don’t really make me feel any different at the core.
Finishing my first 50 mile race was one of the highest highs I’ve ever experienced. But being sidelined by injury two years in a row and not being able to do it again (yet) has morphed it into a point of comparison for the valley I’m in now. More proof that external accomplishments aren’t the answer to this particular question. Do they serve me in other ways? Absolutely! But do they make me feel more worthy of love, respect, or compassion in and of themselves? Not really. The fact that I don’t intrinsically understand this sense of worthiness as my birthright is fucking sad and I recognize my responsibility to do the work here. But feelings aren’t facts and that’s where there’s opportunity.
When I can step outside of fear and look at myself through the lens of love and compassion, like when I write things that other people might read, I can access a different perspective and the opportunity to choose a different behavior. I can choose to restrict food out of fear or cook a nutrient-dense meal out of love – the energy required is the same. I can retreat emotionally or reveal my fears boldly to people who will reflect a more accurate picture of how I add value to the world and to their lives.
I’ve finally come to the realization that it is up to me to forge my own path. This may seem like a “duh” moment, but until now, I let people get in my head and felt I needed to see that representation in order to build a vision of what is possible in my life. But if I wait for that, I may be waiting forever. It’s time to put the work into envisioning the life I want to lead. That’s no easy task, but ultimately, it’s the only way forward. It’s time for me to blaze my own trail toward whatever it looks like to manifest freedom, adventure, and feeling safe to move through the world with the knowledge that I will be okay no matter the obstacle or injury I face, until sweet release of death.
I’ll let you know when I figure that out and until then, I’m just gonna leave this here….