I came outside the other day to find our 8 year old neighbor giving my 4 year old daughter fighting lessons. She was standing over a pumpkin headed man left over from Halloween and beating his leaf bloated belly with a lightsaber. When the demonstration was complete she handed the lightsaber, a third of a green pool noodle, duct tape marking the handle, to my daughter. She hesitated for a moment before giving the guy a few wimpy whacks to the gut.
I chimed in, “What are you guys doing?”
“I’m teaching her how to fight!” Our neighbor remarked enthusiastically, as if she were teaching my daughter an important life skill. Like how to do the dishes or wipe her own butt.
I played it cool, careful not to create unnecessary barriers with overly adult, patronizing language, “Oh, I see… And are you also learning how to resolve problems by using your words?”
“No.” Our neighbor half-smiled, as if I were telling a joke, which I suppose I half was.
“Maybe we should learn how to meditate instead!” I think she may have said more on the topic, but I was so relieved I didn’t have to figure out a way to put an end to the fighting lessons that I too quickly turned my attention to my daughter.
“Maybe you could teach her mantra!”
“No!” She shouted in horror, her fear of putting herself out there, of singing in front of others palpable. My poor girl. She takes after her Mama. She’s got the fear in her. We both do.
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For the better part of the last 10 years I worked as an engineer for a large company. Every year, as part of my performance review I received a rating: 1 (good), 2 (average) or 3 (bad). Not only did I feel like a number lost among the crowd, my worth was literally described as a number.
Employee #26,317, you are AVERAGE.
At first this came as sort of a shock. I was raised to believe I was exceptional. That I was meant to do great things. But over time I began to accept this label of average. I embodied it. I became angry with my parents for teaching me something that wasn’t true. For setting me up with unreasonable expectations. Not every one can change the world, after all.
I felt unsatisfied and spent a tremendous amount of energy reacting to my work environment. I sat in meetings reviewing ergonomic data, not because anyone really cared all that much about my metacarpals, but because someone important decided metrics were the best way to avoid a lawsuit. And I felt angry. I watched as my friends worked 50, 60 and 70+ hours/week, time spent away from their loved ones, and for what? Out of a sense of duty, a fear of failure, because we all so desperately wanted to be seen, affirmed and recognized as something other than AVERAGE. I wondered how much of that time really did make a difference, and I felt angry.
But above all I felt angry at myself for settling. I don’t mean to say that the corporate world is bad or wrong for everyone. Who knows? Maybe one day, at a different time and phase of life, it will even become right for me. But my reasons for staying were all wrong.
On some level deep down under the surface I knew I wanted to start my own business. A business with values that truly aligned with my own. Values of love and connection, where an employee was seen as a whole person, beautiful and complex, with unique abilities and potential for greatness. A business that allowed space for creativity and innovation. A business with a mission of bringing people together.
It just always felt like a pipe dream. Something I wasn’t truly capable of. Something involving too much risk. Of failure, specifically. Of loss. Not so much of the monetary sort, but rather of pride. I wasn’t capable of opening my own business. Failure would be so embarrassing. Surely, my co-workers, my friends and family would recognize this for the folly that it was. I made sure they didn’t find out. In fact, I was careful not to really tell myself explicitly.
Any energy left after anger and frustration I spent on guilt. I told myself that in order to be happy I needed to come to terms with the reality of my insignificance and be content with my situation. My job paid well and the work wasn’t especially bad. I formed real and meaningful friendships with my co-workers. I even married one and two more became bridesmaids. I was comfortable. Shouldn’t that be enough?
It only recently occurred to me that perhaps I should re-direct that energy towards believing in myself. As part of Yoga Teacher Training we were asked to commit to a 40 day meditation. So now, everyday, I bring my awareness to my third chakra, the solar plexus. Or in lay man’s terms, the gut. This is the place where we cultivate courage. I chant mantra. I meditate on my own potential for greatness.
And it’s working.
My 4 year old has learned one of the mantras. Maybe she’ll teach our neighbor. Who knows? Maybe one day she’ll be brave enough to wipe her own butt.
I’m also beginning to understand that contentment first starts from within. We must first be content with ourselves. Part of that is believing we already possess the talent, the skill, the ability, whatever you want to call it, to affect change in our lives and in the world. We are already exceptional. I am. You are. We are already capable of greatness.
So here I am, opening my own business. This is just the beginning. I have lots of ideas about what to offer and where to go from here. I’m trusting that in time it will unfold in exactly the way it is meant to. My first step is simply creating this space. It is about fitness, but also so much more. It’s about authenticity and the love and support of community. It’s about honoring and treating our bodies and minds and hearts with the care and respect they deserve.
The fear is still very much with me as I embark on this new adventure. I humbly ask that you support and join me. In return I promise to do the same and support you as you realize your own potential for greatness.
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Photo Credit: Sunset by postscapes at www.postscapes.com is licensed under CC BY 2.0 / Text added to original