I started running because it felt good and offered relief from a stressful home environment. I mean, it wasn’t that bad, but in my family, something was always wrong. And after a run, it always seemed like everything was eventually going to be okay.
Over time, it got addictive. If I couldn’t control my home life, running was one thing I could control. Food had entered the equation, too, so there were two things. I started competing in high school track and cross country in 11th grade. Competition was fun, especially as I slowly improved on my meager 84-second 400 meter PR. But as the desire to control continued to escalate, my happiness decreased. I just couldn’t see it yet.
Underneath the carefully calculated miles and calories logged lay the belief that I wasn’t ever good enough.
I walked on to my college Division 1 cross country team but quit after 3 weeks. I still ran after that and even joked with my friends about quitting. Ultimately, it was supporting my cause: just not good enough.
My first year of college was a rollercoaster. Not only did I quit the team but I transferred schools to be with my high school sweetheart only to get dumped by him later that summer. Again, I ran to control the pain, but still ignored the underlying belief.
If I had the insight then, I’d have realized that I continued to fulfill the negative belief by dating a series of unavailable men. Really, I was only running to keep my weight down so I could attract even more unavailable men. This went on through my 20s. When I did finally meet someone who seemed available, I had a brief reprieve from the dark side. Even running was fun again! I made goals and achieved them. I blogged. I learned how important running was to me at the time. Turns out it was more important than I’d realized.
But because I never addressed the underlying belief, running eventually reverted to that negative coping mechanism of the past. I stayed in a relationship beyond the expiration date. We had different views on life. Important views, the ones that make or break things. I was too scared to break things, so I stayed.
And then once again, running became the only thing I could control. I signed up for even bigger goals this time: marathons. Putting all of my focus on training took my mind off that stinky underlying belief of not being good enough and the impending doom of a failed relationship with someone who, as it turned out, hadn’t ever been available.
On the final miles of my last marathon, I had a thought. I’m done with this. In the moment, it seemed like something we all say as we approach the finish line, before we (ten minutes later) think about when we can run the next one. But this was different. I wasn’t sure what I was done with, exactly, but it wasn’t just that race.
My subconscious was trying to tell me something bigger, and I wanted to listen. I took a break from running and entered therapy thinking it was just post-marathon grief, especially since I had not achieved my goal. In the six months after that race, life quickly changed.
This time in therapy, I started to listen. I could hear that underlying voice. It was shouting now. Not good enough, eh? I hear you! That made me mad. Very mad. I analyzed its origins, only to realize it didn’t necessarily matter where it came from.
I could rewrite the story.
Therapy led me to try a new hobby, one that the little girl inside always wanted to try but somewhere along the way got silenced by the thought of, you guessed it, not good enough. The hobby of stand up comedy then led me to meet someone I felt an instant connection to. I couldn’t ignore my subconscious again; I was finally learning how to listen to it.
Sure, I stayed faithful, but the constant daydreams of possibly being with someone who might actually want to be with me led me to finally speak up.
I was done.
Done making excuses for someone else. Done trying to control. Done believing I didn’t deserve happiness.
And running was there, waiting for me with open arms. This time, as stress relief. Like they were when I started running, each run was filled with the euphoria of I don’t know what just happened but it sure felt good. I wasn’t pressured to sign up for a race or even pressured to run every day. Finally, running wasn’t in my life to make me try to feel good enough. Only I could do that with one simple belief.
I finally rewrote the story.
I am good enough.