Like a lot of other people out in the world, I have always worried about what people think of me. I think it stems from the fact that I grew up in a small suburb of Chicago where a lot of people knew each other and where it was difficult to go unnoticed.
Rightly or wrongly, I attached judgement to people knowing each other’s business. In my case, this resulted in me having a bit of a split personality – one side of me has always wanted desperately to fit in and to be liked, but I also have this side of me which wants to shatter the mould – to shock people. On top of that, sometimes I’m not totally sure which “me” is going to show up.
Not surprisingly, I have often been left feeling like I have done or said the wrong thing. This situation has been compounded by the fact that I have moved around a lot, and I am constantly meeting new people through my work.
I am happy to report, however, that this internal struggle has eased of late. One instance, in particular, stands out. A couple of months ago, I agreed to become one of the run directors at my local parkrun. Although I am not a runner anymore, my husband is, and parkrun has become an important part of our lives in London.
At first, I was really excited to get more involved. As time went on, however, and I got closer to my inaugural parkrun, performance anxiety began to creep in. Yep, back to worrying about what people think of me!
One thing I knew, though, was that I didn’t want anxiety to be part of this experience. So, with help from my coaching community and my meditation practice, I decided to go back to the motivation of why I was doing it. Was I looking to be the best run director in the world - yes, I’m laughing as I write this - or was I doing it to give something back to a community that took me in even though I am not a runner anymore?
As the latter was my primary objective, I simply took myself out of the equation. Although I still woke up at 4am on the day, it was with excitement rather than trepidation. Once things kicked off, the joy of the experience came flooding in. Although I forgot a thing or two on the day, my fellow runners all pitched in and everything ran smoothly.
In the end, I was left with a sense of gratitude. Firstly, that I was able to be a part of something healthy and fun, but just as importantly that I was able to enjoy the experience and not judge myself. For in the end, I think the judgement I felt throughout my life was much more from myself than from others. I still sometimes feel like I’ve said the wrong thing. However, I try to honour all sides of myself, and when that insecure little girl appears, I give her a big virtual hug. That is true release!