i was moved this afternoon to go for a run. can’t tell you the last time i did it… but i’ve definitely done a looooot of it over the course of my life. i’ve always been an athlete, i was a collegiate soccer player, running is something with which i am very familiar. i just got back actually, and immediately sat down to write this. turns out i still do a lot of thinking when i run… it’s all very much like riding a bike. i’m just not 18 anymore… that’s the main difference.

ya know what i realized…? i’ve spent (read: wasted) so much of my life making sure that when i’m running, no one sees me walking. i’ve even gone as far as judging “how” i’m running, if i look strong enough, if i look like a beginner, if i “run like a girl…” you know… always all these good things happening between my ears.

in college, i was afraid that my coach didn’t think i was working hard enough and that if i worked harder, he’d notice and i’d be “allowed” to contribute more minutes in games. matter of fact, i wanted a starting spot on the roster. and i wanted it So. Badly. like… WAYYYY more than anything else in my 18-19-20-year-old world… i thought FOR SURE that working harder was going to get me there. i’ll be damned if i wasn’t the hardest working player on the whole dang team. i was the first one to arrive, the last one to leave, i volunteered to do crap i had no interest in doing, carried a bunch of crap, helped out, managed equipment, worked harder, ran faster… i did it all. i was the quintessential “leave it all on the field” girl… i obeyed the team rules… i even caught a fellow teammate red-handed drinking at a frat house the night before a game… brought it up to my captains and coach… she still started. and i still didn’t. guess what? i was actually pretty much benched my entire junior and senior years. saw all of 5 minutes a game. and still broke my back at practice, hoping to just get to 10 minutes on the field during any game, whether it was one that mattered or not. i don’t even want to talk about how hard i worked the summer before my junior year on breaking 6 minutes in the mile run, only to do it… second fastest time that year… and have it not matter at all. it didn’t change one thing. i still rode the bench. i was told it was for all kinds of reasons, reasons that don’t deserve to be hashed out here, but the truth is the hard work wasn’t changing his mind. it never did. and it was probably never going to.

“i’m not good enough” rattled around in my head an awful lot as a soccer player. sometimes it still does. maybe i really did suck and i just never really knew it. maybe putting me in a game was such a liability that i was better served cheering off to the side. despite all my “try hard,” i just couldn’t quite hack it. but i just thought of something while i was on this run / walk thing i just did. because it’s been so long since i last ran… there was quite a bit of walking involved.

all this time spent working my face off, trying to gain rank, and making sure other people “see me running” is probably pretty annoying to people that sometimes have a hard time walking. and all the time i spend judging myself for walking, there are people wishing they could just get one foot in front of the other, but for some reason, can’t seem to get their legs moving.

maybe it matters more that you’re moving. not the speed at which you’re traveling. maybe it’s ok for today that two of my neighborhood laps were jogs and one was a walk with a guilt-inspired trot up the hill at the end. (some habits really do die hard, folks…)

i just couldn’t deny this thought i was having in my inner dialogue – the harder you work, or the more “perfect” it looks… is it all really gaining what you think it’s gonna gain? and is there maybe some truth to the thought that an onlooker trying to get inspired to move is actually uninspired by the grind… uninspired by the perfectionism. i’m over here trying to “be the best” and really someone is just trying to “be.” they can’t even think about trying to be the best and they’re overwhelmed entirely by the concept… maybe to the point of doing nothing at all.

so yeah, i walked a bit on my run today. and oh my gosh, i let some other random neighbors see me do it (who probably did not even notice, much less care). and the thought crossed my mind, “they’re gonna think i’m a quitter. they’re gonna think i’m weak because i didn’t run this whole time,” but really i just need to put that down because it’s not mine to carry. i’m not sure exactly where it started, but if it was college soccer, that was 13 years ago and i think 13 years is long enough to carry around an extremely unhelpful way of thinking.

truth is i’ve been trying to matter my whole life. my performance has been driven by affirmations. i was waiting for someone to tell me i was doing things well enough, but no matter whether the affirmations come or not, i’m never satisfied. because my head’s in the wrong place. it doesn’t matter whether or not someone tells me my job is done well. it didn’t matter if my coach thought my performance was “good enough” and it doesn’t matter if my neighbors think i’m “running fast enough.” it doesn’t matter if social media thinks my content is good, funny, or entertaining enough. it’s just a mental game we all get sucked into playing that doesn’t deserve our energy in the first place. because when it’s all said and done… and we’re waiting in like to get in to Heaven… i HIGHLY doubt God is going to let us in based on our Instagram following, virality, or content, or whether or not i rode the bench on my college soccer team, or whether or not i ran all of the laps and steps in my out-of-nowhere urge to run this afternoon.

it is good to want to be better. it is good to be a diligent and hard worker, and i learned some dang good lessons from being an athlete. i’ll never argue with any of that. but if the effort i’m putting forth is coming with the expectation that someone else is gonna tell me when i’ve “made it,” i oughtta saddle up, because i might be waiting a while. it may never happen. and even if the “atta girl” does come, they’ve never filled me up for long in the past because “they” aren’t any more in charge than i am. we’re all living our lives, trying to make the most of our days, and while wanting to live for others or serve others can definitely be life-giving, living for their approval is not. it’s been very life-sucking in my years of experience. it’s almost a resume line item at this point – SKILLS: well-versed in the area of searching high and low for the approval of others. note: not skilled in finding it; the search is ongoing.

we gotta quit this. we gotta give it up. we need to find a way to stop trying to gain something through the approval of others. it’s really not up to them. i hate that when i was working a “real job,” i was absolutely drowning in these thoughts. always searching for affirmations, always wondering whether or not i was good enough, doing well enough, ever going to climb the ladder, ever going to advance. i hate that it’s so common in our society and the workplace to feel this way. i hate that our fate so often lies in someone else’s hands, because it definitely created some negative thought patterns in me – ones i was especially susceptible to after being the kid who thought her good behavior would somehow, someday get her mother sober. It Never Did. She Kept Drinking. it was never about me – it was about her and her inability to put the bottle down. my worth was never designed to come from her, a boss, or a coach, but i’m afraid that too often we get caught up in thinking it does. heck, i’m clearly still caught up in it today to some degree.

the difference today is i KNOW where my worth ACTUALLY comes from and it’s my responsibility to take time to re-center myself and remember. it’s my job to stop the negative thought pattern, understand the difference between worldly views and truth, and make a better choice. it’s not the walking, the running, or the speed of travel that actually matters. it’s not the opinions of others that are gonna get me into Heaven. hard work is one thing, exhaustion from seeking approval is another.

and now, in true “i swear, i’m only writing this to help somebody, i swear i’m not seeking approval,” fashion – did you get anything from this one??

♥, SF