Are You Cheating Yourself Out of Greatness Due to Fear?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
"No matter how slow you go, you're still lapping everyone on the couch." Susie Miller

I've always joked about the fact that I'm a slow runner. I remind my kids that even though they can beat me in a sprint, eventually my endurance will win out and I'll catch them. Just as the tortoise eventually caught up to the hare, it just takes me a little while longer.

Have you ever been intimidated to try new activities because you know there's a chance you'll finish last or can't keep up? Are you worried that people will judge you because of it? Perhaps there's a class at the gym you've always wanted to try, but you're not sure if you're fit enough. Maybe you'd love to take a walk or jog around the neighborhood, but don't want everyone to judge your form or pace. Have you ever stopped to think that maybe you're too focused on other's opinions when you should just be focusing on yourself?

I used to be self-conscious about the fact that I couldn't possibly keep up with the front (or even middle) of the pack when I'd run with a group. No matter how much effort I put into training for a race—speed work, hill work, long runs, tempo runs—I never really got much faster. I recall one four-mile race where I put 100 percent into the training and ran with maximum effort on race day—only to end up with a middle-of-the-pack finish and a bad memory from feeling like I was going to get sick throughout the entire race. After the race, I decided to accept that speed was not my given talent, which allows me to enjoy the experience rather than worry about my place in the standings.

Fast forward a few years and it was time to tackle a new adventure: Muay Thai kickboxing. The martial art felt way outside my comfort zone. What if I messed up and ended up with a black eye that I'd have to explain to the other moms at school pickup? While others might have taken it as a badge of honor, for me it represented total embarrassment. Among other fears, I was acutely aware of the fact that I was the oldest person in the class—by a lot—and while I tried to ignore that many of the students were old enough to be my children, it wasn't always easy. I'm not sure if it was age or just my brain being so crowded with other thoughts, but it always took me longer to pick up on things than it took most others in the class.

Over time I was able to conquer those fears and get comfortable with the fact that I was not a typical Muay Thai student. How? It wasn't easy, but as I met more people in the class, I started to realize that everyone was there for themselves and they weren't focusing on what I was doing. I also discovered that people wanted to help and appreciated that I was there for different reasons.

It was okay that I wasn't training to be a prize fighter, just like it was okay that I wasn't running at the front of the pack. Many of those imaginary judgements were created in my head. Recognizing that I was my own worst enemy, I felt empowered that I could take control over my reaction and push through those feelings to do the things I wanted to do without fear of judgment or failure.  

SparkPeople member MASTERCARE recently wrote an inspiring blog about finishing last and feeling defeated—until she realized what was more important was that she didn't give up. She could have dwelled on the fact that she was slower than the rest, but instead decided to focus on what was amazing about her accomplishment. That simple shift in thinking gave her the confidence to know she could go back and do it again.

If you're worried about failure, or if you're down because you've tried and you're at the back of the pack, consider this:
  • You're a success because you're out there getting fit.
  • You're brave because you're not letting fear dictate your life.
  • You're powerful because you control your emotions instead of them controlling you.
  • You're worthy because you deserve to live adventurously instead of on the sidelines.
  • You're courageous because you're willing to step outside of your comfort zone.
  • Your ability to succeed is only limited by your own reservations.
Even after the positive self-talk, you might still have doubts. In those times, it helps to have a strong support system of family, friends, the SparkPeople Community and others around you to give you that extra push to try something new or just persevere. We all need that gentle nudge from time to time to keep us moving in the right direction. Plus, who knows who else you might inspire by sticking with it?

Has there ever been a time when you tried and felt like a failure or were too scared to even try? How did you handle it?