When success is the only option
“On the outside I had it all together. On the inside, I was slowly falling apart.”
“Girl, I don’t know how you do it!”
I used to feel such a sense of pride hearing that.
My life was certainly busy.
As a night shift Paramedic supervisor, I was sent to all the “high priority” calls while at the same time dispatching transports, handling the day-to-day operations, planning and executing all platoon education, teaching at a local college and taking classes myself, to stay on top of new advances in my field.
As a mom, I would often forgo sleep after 12+ hour night shifts to make sure my son made it everywhere he needed while also looking after my grandparents’ needs.
In my spare time I trained for a marathon, a 50K and numerous other races and was unknowingly involved with a narcissist that nearly ruined my life, my career and my marriage.
I’m sure every outsider could see I was burning the candle at both ends…
But I didn’t see it that way.
I was deep in my pursuit to be the best at everything.
“I’m just a perfectionist,” I told myself. “I’m just a Type-A personality who likes to get things done.”
In my mind, numbers and statistics and achievements equaled success. Anything less was failure.
What I didn’t realize, was that I was failing myself.
On the outside I had it all together. On the inside, I was slowly falling apart.
I told myself that once I ran a marathon I would rest.
But suddenly I had new goals: Run faster, more miles, longer distances. There was no challenge placed in front of me that I would back down from.
I was unable to say “no.”
Even though I wasn’t necessarily racing against other people, I was racing against myself. And losing was not an option.
Don’t get me wrong, I think goals and challenges are wonderful and often necessary for motivation. But I was getting so caught up in them that I had begun to lose sight of the reason I began running in the first place.
And I was starting to not enjoy running at all. I had lost sight of my “Why” and was just going through the motions.
Fast forward to some “wins” last year that, in my dark mindset, I took as defeats.
I was 7 seconds away from the podium in a tough 5k. Did I see that as a success?
I rode the whole way home thinking “If I had just pushed a LITTLE harder, I would have something to show for this.”
I finished a half marathon in 2 hours and NINE seconds in my goal to run a sub-2-hour half, and instead of being proud of the fact that I had achieved a PR, in my mind I had fallen short of the goal I had dared to speak aloud.
My inner dialog was telling me that I was just not as dedicated to my training as I should have been, that no one was going to see the struggles I had gone through to make it to the finish line, they would only see the numbers.
And the numbers showed that I had not reached the goal.
When it came time to plan January resolutions, I told myself that I would REALLY focus, and that this would be my year to shine!
But did I really want to set more goals and have everyone know I failed?
Did I really want to put in so much work only to be disappointed again?
Did I really even like running anymore?
Was I ever even good at it to begin with?
Regardless, I set those goals. I spoke them aloud. I figured that it would give me accountability and motivate me to “do better this time.”
But the more I pushed the more I disliked it.
Running was no longer something I looked forward to.
I started feeling like even my training runs were being judged.
That February, I finally took a break.
I gave myself permission to rest.
I took time and looked inward and FINALLY began to give myself some grace and reflect on the last several years of my life.
I had the benefit of a therapist who very bluntly would ask me the questions I was so afraid to ask myself.
“Why do you not feel worthy?”
I took a deep dive into nearly every aspect of my life and made adjustments.
I appreciated that I now work at a job where I feel valued and supported. And while my job is still stressful, I am not taking on a ton of “extra responsibilities”.
I had already gone no-contact with the narcissist who had nearly ruined my life. The lingering effects of being in that situation, however, I accept, and I am constantly reminding myself that the things that were said and done to me do not reflect who I am as a person.
I focused on things that I love, including traveling and seeing new places.
I bought a new house and I have enjoyed a fresh start in so many ways.
I now truly focus on rest and recovery. For the first time in as long as I can remember I am not signed up for any races. I run now for me, and only me. To see the sights, hear the sounds, smell the flowers and soak everything in.
While it has taken awhile, I no longer feel the pressure to look at my watch or run specific mileage.
I have not given up on running, nor have I given up on someday finally crushing that sub-2 goal.
But I am honoring the moment I am in and FINALLY taking a deep breath.
It’s ok to put the brakes on everything and admit that you need a break.
Sometimes that shows more strength and courage than any medal or race record ever could.
So, if you are feeling overwhelmed, or like you are trying to achieve goals for the wrong reasons, give yourself grace and honor where you are at in that moment.
As Criss Jami once said “You can receive all the compliments in the world, but that won’t do a thing unless you believe it yourself.”
You can follow Christine's running journey on Instagram @pavement_therapy