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Running Lessons in Self-Esteem and Vulnerability

Running Lessons in Self-Esteem and Vulnerability

You could say I’m into social media. I have accounts on all of the main share-my-life portals and even on some of the not-so-main ones. Based on my social media presence, you might think that my life is an open book. And that’s what many on social media like for others to think. Many of us, however, are very precise about what of our lives we share and what we guard. Mostly, for me, I guard stuff of which I’m self-conscious and harbor low self-esteem.

For instance, you may have seen that I post about running. Though you could probably dig into my online profiles a little bit to find out how fast of a runner I am, or how far I’m able to run, I try not to publish that information directly to social media. I’m still a running-work-in-progress. So, when I hit the goal I’m seeking, then I’ll post it to all of social media!

One of the not-so-main social media apps I use is called Strava. It maps my runs, and tells me what my times are for various distances, what the elevations are, and what my pace is. It also keeps track of the races I run. I can save running routes and track my pace progress as I run those routes.

People who have the app can follow other users of the app. Currently, I follow only two or three people. And typically on these apps, I keep my profile private so that others can’t follow me unless I approve their follow request. With Strava, I decided to be somewhat bold and keep my profile public for other registered users of the app. I didn’t know of any friends who used the app, so I thought that my public profile would be somewhat private since only registered users could access profiles.

A few months ago, I was faced with the reality of this running insecurity when a friend started following me on Strava. This is someone who I am inspired by, who I’ve always held in high regard—she was now going to be able to see a vulnerable part of me. At my age, you’d think insecurities would be a thing of the past—in a lot of ways, they are. But my current running achievements are not something I’m proud of. For instance, I feel like I’m lying if I tell someone I ran a half-marathon. In truth, I completed a half-marathon by walking approximately three of the thirteen miles. So, I didn’t run it completely—I’ve bought into the lie that it’s less of an achievement if I didn’t run the whole thing.

It’s a small thing, right? My contribution to running as a sport won’t likely be consequential. This realization makes me wonder: Is that what I’m doing it for? To make some sort of mark?

In short, no, I’m not looking to make a mark.

Having a friend follow me on Strava has challenged my insecurities and has helped me realize that it’s not running I’m trying to conquer. Rather, I use running as a tool to conquer things within me. I’m slow, yes. Sometimes I have to walk. Often, I want to quit. Lately, I haven’t run at all. But when I run, I say things to myself that I don’t say enough to myself: “I’ve got this;” “Keep going;” “I’m strong;” “I’m in charge of my body;” and other self-affirming mantras. And when I meet whatever daily or weekly running goal, there isn’t another feeling like it—because somewhere in the middle of that run or that training schedule, I thought I wasn’t going to make it. But I did.

©2014 Jennifer Wilder. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint or publish this content elsewhere, please contact me through this blog.