What’s stopping us from becoming better athletes?

There are many things that may hold us back from achieving what we want, whether it’s in our active lifestyles, work places, travel desires, or elsewhere. It could be social commitments, it could be family, friends, work pressures, it could be lack of equipment or finances. The biggest thing that I believe holds us back though (myself included) is ourselves.

Have you ever caught yourself feeling self doubt, comparing yourself to someone “better” than you, being hard on yourself , giving up because others are going to “beat you anyway”, or just feeling jealous of others? I know I have, many times, and not only in athletic endeavours.

What I haven’t really seen is the same behaviour in guys. It seems to me that self deprecation is a really female thing, and that’s not only in sport. I’m sure there are many reasons behind this, contributing factors that are different for every individual that I couldn’t be aware of, but for me, I want to stop it. I don’t want to be arrogant, but all this negative self talk and behaviour only cuts ourselves down and I want to talk myself up.

We will always have times when we doubt ourselves, for whatever reason, and when it comes to cycling, running, swimming, anything athletic, it’s the same sorts of doubt – I’m not fast enough, I’m not fit enough, I shouldn’t race because I’m not good enough, I don’t have the right skills, I’m not strong enough. But what am I measuring myself against? Comparing myself to others and coming up short? I’m too slow compared to this person, I’m too unfit compared to this person, I’m not as skilled as this person. Really I should only be comparing myself to myself. That’s the only comparison that matters, how I’m doing now to how I was doing before hand. Comparing to others is always going to end up making us feel bad and leave us wallowing in self pity, because we can’t be the best at everything, there will always be someone better and that should be something we find amazing. We shouldn’t be looking at the success of others and using it as a thing to hold us down. We should be inspired by the dedication and the effort that others are putting in to their wants.

Where does this attitude come from? Why are we like that? Why do we bring others down and put ourselves down? What does it matter if someone has a better bike than you, or is fitter than you – that’s their life, not yours. This is a truly complex and multifaceted issue to me, and I feel that I could fall down the rabbit hole trying to understand all the different perspectives and contributing factors, but I will keep it short and simple and focus on the way forward. Our attitude needs to change. My attitude needs to change. We need to focus on what’s important to us and stop comparing to others, stop measuring ourselves and falling short of some apparent goal that we don’t remember setting. We need to compare our progress to our own progress, whilst also taking into consideration that things change. We need to support ourselves and stop the self doubt talk that we have.

So, moving forward, I want to stop myself when I go to say something like “oh, don’t wait for me, I’m slow”, I want to stop myself from saying “I can’t do X”. Instead, I will be saying “I can do Y”, and I think it’s working. I can’t do complete sit-ups because of my torn abdominal muscles, but I can do crunches relatively safely, so when the trainer told our class to do sit-ups, instead of saying I can’t do that, I said I can do crunches. It felt so much better and empowering to use a positive in describing my abilities than a negative and has encouraged me to keep it up.

What I hope is that you will do the same. Even when you’re feeling down on yourself, when you are doubting yourself, when you are disappointed because someone did something better, whatever negative thought gets in your head, I want you to do your best to stop it. Even if that means you don’t say the doubt out loud. For me, that means that when someone asks me to go for a ride, or a run, I’m not going to say no, I’m too slow. I may be thinking it, but I’m not going to say it, a step to breaking that behaviour. I may ask what pace is expected, because I plan to be realistic about my abilities, and even if I am slow, I’m not going to think about it, or talk about it in a negative way, nor am I going to apologise for it.

Let’s stop apologising for what we can do and celebrate the wonderful people around us that inspire us, like the amazing women I got to train with in this picture!

Tri For Me Fitness training weekend in Albury

Tri For Me Fitness training weekend in Albury

These are a few other entries I’ve read that I’ve connected with, and hopefully you’ll get something out of them too.

https://www.imba.com/blog/dig-women-mtb/dig-being-honest-about-your-strengths

http://redkiteprayer.com/2014/05/an-open-letter-to-the-cycling-industry/

http://machinesforfreedom.com/blogs/stories/17596692-self-deprecation-and-the-female-cyclist

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