“Our doubts are traitors,/
and make us lose the good we oft might win,/
by fearing to attempt.”
-William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure
As a little girl I was never scared of monsters. Obviously they weren’t real. I’m not sure I ever believed in Santa, so why would I worry about some three-headed goblin taking up residence in my closet.
My fears were based more in reality. Snakes in the toilet, spiders in my bed. I still check the toilet before I sit down. Always.
The fears I do battle with most often as an adult aren’t of the green, slimy kind. They are the little demons of self-doubt.
No matter how well I may master a skill, these little creatures weasel their way into my psyche and wreak havoc at the most unexpected moments. The longer they linger, the deeper they cling.
Sometimes self-doubt is sneaky. I will attribute success to being in the right place at the right time. I will credit luck rather than hard work for a fortunate outcome.
“I’m not a good writer. I just happened to have a couple good ideas here and there.”
“I’m not a good runner. All the fast girls stayed home today.”
“I’m not a good mom. God just graced me with good kids.”
Other times self-doubt is brazen and bold, shouting insults with megaphone-like intensity.
“You have nothing interesting to say.”
“You aren’t fast enough, so why bother.”
“You’ll be lucky if those kids make it to adulthood without needing serious therapy.”
Self-doubt isn’t necessarily a bad trait to have. For triple-A type personalities like myself who crave control over any given situation, doubting thoughts often spur me to action. The idea that my past accomplishments are, well, in the past keeps me from resting on my laurels. One good race season doesn’t guarantee another, so I keep training.
We all need to reflect and ask ourselves if we’re really living up to our potential in any facet of life. Crammed schedules and constant running to and fro can masquerade for accomplishment when really it’s just busyness. Sometimes we need to slow down, remember what it is we’re working toward and assess our progress. A little recalibration can get us back on track.
But there have been moments when those demons have gotten the best of me. As I stood at the starting line of the Ogden Marathon this year, those little critters didn’t just set up house in my head. They were in my heart and, apparently, my stomach. I took one look at all the “real” runners near the front of the pack and immediately discounted myself.
“They all ran in college and high school. I’m just a mom,” was a thought I’m embarrassed to admit is a fairly common one for me.
I can’t imagine ever telling a fellow runner or friend, “They all ran in college. You’re just a mom. Step to the back and let the real runners through.” I would sooner bite off my own tongue than tell a friend that their training was lacking and they didn’t deserve to toe the line of a race.
If I wouldn’t talk to a friend like this, why do I talk to myself like this? It’s true I was never an athlete in my high school and college years. I didn’t find running until after my youngest daughter was born. I took up the sport not to bring home trophies and earn bragging rights, but to find peace and solace on the road as I struggled to find pieces of myself in the fog of motherhood. In those early days, every run was a victory and I gained confidence I was desperate for that carried into my role as a mother.
I knew I was a runner. No qualifications. I believed in my abilities and was comfortable where I was. I signed up for races with no hesitation. I toed the starting line with nervous anticipation, but no doubt.
My goal this year has nothing to do with time or distance. My goal is to talk to myself as I would talk to my best friend. To take pride in what I’ve accomplished and find satisfaction in where I am in the moment. Monsters aren’t real unless I make them real. (But I still check the toilet before sitting down.)