When I was a gymnast, my coach had us drop to the ground for 20 pushups if she heard someone say “I can’t.” Yep. The entire team was dragged into the punishment by one person’s “negative self talk.”
Nobody wanted to do 20 pushups. And nobody wanted to be the reason the entire team had to do 20 pushups. If we weren’t comfortable with something, we were allowed to talk to our coach about it, but those two words – “I can’t” – suggested we didn’t believe we could, which, obviously, becomes problematic. I never conquered a challenge as an athlete by thinking to myself “I can’t, I can’t, I can’t” throughout the duration of the challenge. The times that I did were the times that I balked mid-move and crashed to the floor. Not believing in yourself is dangerous, at least in athletics. In other aspects of life, it’s mostly harmful to our personal growth.
This memory of the pushup punishment came into mind just last week when my friends asked if I’d join them in a Warrior Dash. I’ve seen pictures of these obstacle course events where the participants look exhausted but empowered. Still, I immediately envisioned a defeated me, out of breath and in a complete mental meltdown. Worse, I envisioned myself covered in sweat and mud, yelling “I can’t!” as my friends forged ahead.
But I wanted so badly to say “I can!” I know there’s value in challenging myself to do this, simply because my mind told me it might not be possible. I’m fit, so I was less concerned about the grueling physical demands than just believing that I could mentally get through it.
I waited a few days before signing up to give myself time to think if I had it in me. I decided to go for a run to condition myself. I am NOT a runner. At least that’s what I always told myself because I’ve only run a handful of times in my life. But on this particular day, I was so focused on the motivator ahead – being fit enough to complete the Warrior Dash – that I just did it. I told myself it was just training and I’d stop if I had to. But to my surprise, once I found my groove I didn’t need to stop. Mid-run I was feeling so empowered and proud; I wondered why I hadn’t liked running before. I think I might have been smiling even, and I for sure felt this force within me pushing me forward, saying “I can do this.” Magic.
I realized then that I have been doing something out of order. I’ve been wondering why it’s hard for me to talk myself up, compliment myself, say positive things about my worth to others. I wondered why it’s so hard to sign up for a Warrior Dash. It’s the equivalent of saying “I can’t.” What I learned is that, first and foremost, I need to work on adjusting my thoughts so they really and truly believe “I can.”
This is a challenge I’m giving myself. To think more highly of myself so I can talk more highly of myself and act like I’m capable. I’ll do this by pushing out negative thoughts and replacing them with an uplifting mantra. Maybe I’ll recite one of my favorite quotes, which goes like this:
Believe in yourself to the depth of your being. Nourish the talents your spirit is freeing. Know in your heart when the going gets slow that your faith in yourself will continue to grow. Don’t forfeit ambition when others may doubt, it’s your life to live – you must live it throughout. Learn from your errors – don’t dwell in the past. Never withdraw from a world that is vast. Believe in yourself; find the best that is you. Let your spirit prevail; steer a course that is true – Bruce B. Wilmer
Meanwhile, I’m going to go for another run. I’ve got a challenging race at the end of this month, and I’m looking forward to proving to myself that I have the physical and mental strength to do it.