I was always an active kid. Growing up in western Pennsylvania with two old brothers and a neighborhood full of rambunctious kids meant climbing trees and skateboarding down the hill to cul-de-sac hockey were all common place activities. I had that tomboyish charm, which of course, lead to my complete dismay when I was signed up for dance lessons.
I don’t remember much from my time as a dancer, but the videos of a 5-year-old Liz tell the whole story. Across the stage in their pink tutus glide all my classmates. There’s a small pause and then with all the grace of a moody triceratops, I plod onto the stage, spin, and stop – staring vaguely into the crowd.
Okay, so it wasn’t really my thing. Years later, I would find my “thing” in the world of long distance running. My brother was on the cross country team and – because I wanted to be everything my brothers were – I decided I should run too. My dad would stand at the basketball hoop at the end of our driveway with a stop watch – four laps of the yard equaled one mile. I’d stomp through the grass, dodging dog poop and the eminent bee hive threat that loomed around every pine tree.
Still, my love for long distance running only grew. I too joined the cross country team and signed up for every distance event that indoor and outdoor track seasons could offer me. It had taken some time, but I finally found the place I was most comfortable.
Being a distance runner in middle or high school always held a slight bit of entertainment for me when I would talk with my soccer, basketball, or lacrosse playing friends: You ran how many miles just for the warmup?!
By the time college rolled around, many of my friends had picked up running as an informal way to stay in shape, reduce stress, keep active, etc. etc. I was talking to one of these friends lately when they started to tell me about how they were getting into running. They immediately followed that statement with something like, “But I’m nowhere like what you do. I don’t run very fast or very far. I just run a little.”
And I had to stop them right in that moment. Consider this my lecture to anyone who has been quick to write off an accomplishment as noted above:
Are you serious? You are (insert age here) and you just decided to “pick up running?” That’s incredible. Don’t write yourself off or try to compare your workout to mine. You literally decided to train your body to take the physical demands of a brand new sport. You bought running shoes and remembered to stretch and had to figure out how to run with form that didn’t make your knees hurt. That’s amazing! I’m 23 but I can’t even begin to imagine picking up something like softball right now – with little to no knowledge of the sport. (That, and I am absolutely terrified of softball).
It’s really easy to sell ourselves short or to compare ourselves to the friend who does it better. One of my roommates went to the Culinary Institute of America and is inarguably the best cook in the apartment. He has years of experience and formal training. That being said, I still have absolutely every right to be proud of whatever I cook. It may not be anything close to what he could cook, but that doesn’t take anything away from what I’ve accomplished.
Own your accomplishment. Don’t compare your artwork to your friend who has her first show coming up. Don’t wonder if your scones can match up to your friend who opened a bakery. After all, someone is comparing their work to whatever your “thing” is.
Above all else, though, don’t let your fear of inadequacy prevent you from trying something new. You don’t have to be the best dancer in the room, but you should probably still dance.