The topic of Ego has been heavy on my mind lately. I’ve recently started mountain biking, a sport that scared me so badly and swore I would never do again. Looking back at my amazing experiences with it over the last few weeks, it got me questioning why I wasn’t feeling frustrated or angry. Why was this sport so different than the others I have tried over the last few years? And it hit me, I’ve just been really nice to myself through this whole learning process.
School growing up was hard for me. I remember specific moments of teachers publicly shaming me for not following directions, being bullied in middle school, and being picked last in gym for my absolute lack of grace / sport skills. I learned quickly that I hated being embarrassed, I hated the feeling of not being good enough, I hated people doubting me, and ultimately I hated failure. So much so that I avoided those feelings the majority of my life - it became this underlying obsession of avoidance. Until recently, I had no idea that all of those scary feelings ultimately came down to my lack of self acceptance/self worth.
My avoidance tendencies included staying far, far away from the things I knew I wouldn’t be good at. I stuck to my comfort zone most of the time in order to avoid any type of embarrassment. Which is why I was having mini freak out moments after deciding to try to incorporate some new activities in my life. Pretty soon my closet of triathlon gear (comfort zone activity) was making some space for skis, yoga mats, and climbing gear (farrrrr out of comfort zone activities). I was excited for new challenges, but I wasn’t quite prepared for just how difficult those challenges would be for me.
My ego was large and in charge during the start of these sports. Crying while climbing a route and yelling angrily down at my significant other at a crowded crag was a normal occurrence and lead me to being in a constant state of defense and absolute frustration. I would apologize to my partner for not being able to finish a route, or make excuses as to why I wasn’t “good yet” to the person I didn’t even know standing next to me, or storm off angrily because I was too afraid to climb and I was embarrassed for not being able to do so.
My way of dealing with being on my ass 95% of the time on the ski slopes was yelling at the person who was so kindly trying to teach me, letting them know just how stupid they were for taking me out here in the first place. I would say sorry to the group I was skiing with because I felt bad that they had to wait for me to get down the run, or for being “too slow.” I pushed myself too hard because I was determined not to be last and ended up spraining my MCL (which put me out for 6 weeks). I would waste BEAUTIFUL powder days being upset for not only being last but because I needed 5 hands to count all of my falls.
Exposing myself to the unknown result of these activities was SO HARD, especially for someone who thrived on control. I was using my performance as a direct reflection of my worth. It brought back all of those feelings of failure, fear, of not being good enough, of not being accepted. I was so afraid of not fitting in that I would put myself in uncomfortable situations and as a result there were days where I would have zero fun.
This past summer when Eric and I were out climbing, we met these amazing gals in Spearfish SD. I was getting really frustrated on a climb that everyone else was able to get to the top of and making it look a whole lot prettier than my attempt(s). During my outward expression of frustration the women belaying me said, “hey, if you’re not having any fun I am going to let you down,” and it hit me, I was miserable. The worst part though, I was making myself miserable. Who cares if I get to the top of this climb? Really, all of this pressure was COMPLETELY internal.
And that’s when it sunk in. All of this pressure, my hissy fits, my fears, my insecurities, my anger.. They were all self inflicted. Who did I need to prove myself to? Certainly not to Eric and definitely not to these women. Looking back at my past few years of learning all of these amazing new sports, I was self inflicting pain and letting my ego take control. Everything came down to the simple fact that I was searching for self worth and approval externally instead of looking inward for it.
I choose self acceptance, I decide my worthiness. Not my friends, not my family, not my boyfriend, or roommates, or the random badass chick climbing next to me. Not my climbing, hiking, skiing, running, or yoging performances. Me.
Back to mountain biking: I tried it once a few years ago. As soon as I got on the bike, I felt my ego take control. I was determined to make this look easy, no help necessary. My result? Blood everywhere. Trees were hit, ditches were laid in, and more than one rock showed me who was boss. That experience of trying to prove myself completely turned me off to mountain biking and I swore to myself that I would never, ever get on another one of those bikes. Fast forward to today.. I have yet to fall (while actually riding my bike - another story for another day).
The difference between those two experiences? I’ve been listening to my POSITIVE self talk rather than let my ego take control. I said, I am going at my own pace, I will walk if i need to, and if something is scary, I won't do it until I feel ready. And guess what?! Because I listened to myself, because I didn’t believe my ego telling me “you’re not good enough,” I HAD SO MUCH FUN. I love mountain biking. I’ve stopped trying to prove myself and just enjoy the people, the most beautiful trails I have ever seen, and marvel in the fact that my amazing body can do such an amazing thing and take me to these amazing places and views.
Of course there are still times where I hear that voice of “you’re not good enough” creeping back in or finding myself apologizing to random strangers on the trail for being slow, or making excuses as to why I am walking, or making fun of how slow I am rather than just embracing it. But you know - it’s always going to be a work in progress and the important part is recognizing when it happens and not letting yourself go down the rabbit hole of the never ending “I suck” and believing it. Catching those self destructing thoughts before they get out of hand is the key to all of this.
So next time you start comparing, or the feelings of “I’m not good enough,” or “I’m not worthy” start filling your head, take a step back from what you are doing, sit with your thoughts and try to uncover why you might be feeling that way (in other words, acknowledge that you are feeling these things, and know IT IS OKAY to be feeling those things) but then CHOOSE to take a different path. (This podcast episode and this podcast episode are both sooo great if you want to dig a bit deeper in this topic). Choose self acceptance, choose to believe in your whole heart of hearts that YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH.
Remember that the way you feel about yourself is in your power, not anyone else's.
All of this takes practice, but it does get easier to stop the ego/negative thoughts from getting too out of control. Be gentle with yourself, give yourself a break, and send more gratitude and love your way rather than disgust and negativity. We only get one you on this earth, so embrace yourself!! And in the words of Jen Sincero, “LOVE YOURSELF, because you deserve it.”