No matter what kind of change you make in your life, someone is going to be negative.
We’ve heard it all as we’ve prepared for our round-the-world trip:
- How can you leave your mother? (Our moms live 2000 miles away from us now.)
- It seems really irresponsible to just take off like that. (Those of you who’ve been reading the blog for a while know how “irresponsible” we’ve been about planning this trip.)
- You must be rich. (As if saving and budgeting is a radical new concept that only we know about.)
We’ve worked really hard over the last few years to surround ourselves with positive, goal-oriented people. Sometimes I get so used to being around this good energy that a bad vibe from someone outside my circle can really knock me back. This happened recently, and I had to relearn how to deal with negative comments and my own insecurities.
Starting something new
As most of you know, I’ve been training for a half-marathon as part of my “bucket list” of activities to do before we leave Seattle. It has been a tough process, and I’m now less than 2 weeks until the race. Throughout these months of training I’ve continued to have the same worry:
What if people make fun of me for not being a “real” runner?
This is an insecurity I’ve had since I started the “Couch to 5K” program last fall. I couldn’t even run 60 seconds at a time without gasping for breath, and I had serious doubts that I would ever be able to run a mile, much less a half-marathon. Even deeper than the lack of fitness was my insecurity over how I looked compared to all the other runners. I have never been athletic, and on my best day I could be described as curvy.
Over the past 8 months I’ve made significant progress, and in less than 2 weeks I’ll be running the Seattle Rock-N-Roll Half-Marathon. I’m confident that I’ll run those 13.1 miles, and I’m even getting a little ambitious over the time it will take to finish.
But still the insecurities remain.
Last Saturday I went running in a beautiful spot on a sunny day. Normally I wear a special running shirt that wicks the sweat away and make me look like all the other other runners, but I didn’t get my laundry done and had to run in an old Patriots t-shirt. Near the start of the run a woman running toward me said to her friend: “See that? *Not* a runner.” This is exactly the kind of comment I’ve been dreading these past 8 months, though I really thought most people would just think it and not say it. All this time I’ve been looking for judgement in their eyes and this woman made it so convenient by actually saying it out loud!
At first I was really taken aback and felt the tears sting my eyes (I mean, I heard it over my iPod while playing Eminen, so she didn’t exactly whisper it). And then I tried to justify it by saying that I wasn’t dressed appropriately and blah, blah, blah – making excuses for why a stranger would make a rude comment like that!
If we work this comment out it really doesn’t take long to neutralize it. By the sheer act of running at that moment I am a runner. By training 4-5 days a week for months at a time, I am a runner. By sticking to a regimen that predicts I will be able to finish the half-marathon, I am a runner. Even if I don’t make it across the finish line, I am still a runner BECAUSE I RUN. There is nothing anyone can say to change that unless I let it change my opinion of myself and stop running.
My reptile brain would also like to add “oh, and my breasts won’t sag because I’m wearing the proper support, you bouncy bitch.” (Yes, it helps to give a little internal attitude when you’re struggling with negativity!)
Neutralizing negative comments
Do you find yourself paralyzed by the fear of negative comments? There are 3 steps that I use to work through this that may help you, too.
- Realize that your insecurity is what gives negative comments power. For instance, if someone told me they didn’t like my hair, it wouldn’t bother me much. We all have different styles, and I change my hair frequently. It is not a point of insecurity for me, so negative comments slide off pretty easily. Running, on the other hand, is a real sore spot because it is so far out of my comfort zone.
- Let your imagination run wild. Think of the worst things someone could say to you about your new decision. Go crazy with it! The more outrageous you make your scenario, the easier it will be to see how ridiculous it is to fret. I worried for months about someone making negative comments about my athletic ability, and when it actually happened I got over it before I finished my run. Think of all the time I could have spent in a more productive way.
- Turn the mirror around. In my case, the other runner was wearing makeup, had on a perfectly matched outfit (without a jog bra!), and wasn’t even sweating. It’s obvious that appearance is important to her. Why should I make that my issue? She could be an Olympic sprinter or a total jerk, but either way her comments say more about her belief system than mine. I’ve got too much work to do on myself to worry about everyone else’s insecurities. When you turn the mirror around you’ll see the comments for what they really are, which is rarely about you.
Remember that you don’t make big changes in your life for other people’s approval. By the same token, other people’s negative reactions shouldn’t cause you to stop making positive changes in your life (or to never start at all).
How do you handle negative comments when you’re working on a big change in your life?