Other people and ourselves can put so many limitations on what we are and what we might be, that it constricts us as people. But self-belief requires daily nurture: you can’t train a muscle once and expect it to stay strong for life. I see the running of marathons in the same light; as a challenge to remind myself not to place unnecessary limitations on who I am.
2) Don’t listen to the critics
I’ve paraphrased the poem titled “If” by Kipling. “If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, but make allowance for their doubting too.” After completing my first marathon, I was asked about my time and had it devalued by various people. I’ve learned that you can’t solely judge your version of success on what others think. Even if you achieve your goal, there will always be critics that will devalue your achievement, and tell you you’re not as good as them. Regardless if it takes you two hours or five days to complete a marathon, you’ve still covered 26.2 miles.
3) Dealing with failure
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you won’t always succeed. What happens when plans A, B, and C fail? When you can’t improve your time, or you’re injured or you can’t finish a race etc. I’ve learned that when something doesn’t work, I need to take the time to stop, review and reflect on what did and did not work. Sometimes there just isn’t an answer to the question, but you can’t dwell on the perceived failure, instead see it as part of the ebb and flow of life. I think of the quote by Arthur Ashe: “If I were to say, ‘God, why me?’ about the bad things, then I should also say, ‘God, why me?’ about the good things that happened in my life.
4) Connecting with others
As much as running can be a solo sport, you can’t underestimate the value of social connection to our wellbeing and self-esteem. Receiving support boosts confidence and, equally, supporting others on their journey is rewarding. No where is this more keenly demonstrated and felt than when you participate in races and parkruns. The camaraderie and friendly competition of those running with you, the helpful race marshals, the smiles and cheers of encouragement from supporters at the finish line combine to make any distance worthwhile. There’s an African proverb that says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”.
5) Get comfortable with being uncomfortable
Success never arrives from a place of comfort and ease, I’ve learned to look at failure as an opportunity to learn from, and not something to run or hide from, if you want to grow. For example, when I want to run faster, I have to train fast, it hurts like hell, but I do improve, gradually. Additionally, ‘comfort zones’ can unconsciously keep you stuck by holding onto limiting self-beliefs, which do not positively serve you. It can stop you living your life, and experience life through real and imagined fears.
No one chooses to have a weakness, but you have to work with what you have to be the best version of yourself. However, my challenge to you is to ask yourself how can you turn a perceived weakness into a strength that brings out the best in you? For example, overcoming obstacles can give you a greater capacity to work under pressure.
Finally, don’t hide and deny your challenges; do talk with those close to you as it is a helpful way to express your feelings, but also a way to challenge ideas that don’t best serve you. The lessons I’ve learned above focus on optimism and resilience, which have a positive benefit to mental health and self-esteem. It can be summarised in the quote by Victor Kiam: “Even if you fall on your face, you’re still moving forward.”
I’m currently undertaking various challenges to raise mental health awareness. Please follow my journey via the following channels: