The gun went off. Just like that, and I was running toward the first hurdle in front of me. And as the hurdles got closer to me, or I got closer to them, something inside of me started to panic.
I had never done the hurdles before. As a middle schooler, this skill was completely new to me. I had to learn how to jump over something in front of me in just the right way, or I was going to get hurt. Or worse yet, I was going to look stupid doing it in front of the other kids. And at the time, there wasn't anything more terrifying than looking stupid in front of the other 12 and 13 year old kids.
As the first hurdle was drawing closer, fear gripped at my heart. My body stopped thinking clearly, and instead of jumping, I just sort of ran right into the hurdle, lifting it up off the track slightly with my hands and body. I tried to act like I did it on purpose, like that was the cool thing to do or something. And then just as quickly as it had happened, I walked off the track right then and there without even finishing the race. I was too embarrassed at the thought of what others might be thinking about me.
At that time in my life, and for many years after, I would really be consumed by what others might have thought about me. Now that I am gaining more wisdom over time, I realize that nobody probably cared that much about what I was doing anyway. But at that time, it engulfed my every day thoughts and actions.
I have never forgotten that moment on the track. So young, and yet I vividly remember the feeling of complete humiliation from hitting the hurdle, and then the fear, guilt and shame that led me to feel like I couldn't even finish the race.
That wasn't like me. I had been running on a 4x100m relay every year since 1st grade. Track wasn't new to me. I was naturally fast. And I was competitive. So what happened? What took over in my head that stopped me from jumping. Was it the fear of getting hurt? Or was it the fear of failing? Either way, fear won the race. I did not.
That experience stirred up some tough questions inside of me. So I made a commitment to always finish the race, if it was in my control to do so. Even if my legs felt like rubber, I would finish the race. Even if it was pouring down rain and slippery wet, I would finish the race. Even if I hit a hurdle and crashed hard onto the ground, I would finish the race. And that did happen a time or two in high school. I even have the scars to show for it. One time, it happened on the same day as prom. I hit the last hurdle of the race and fell hard. But I didn't walk off the track that time. I got up. And I finished the race with the blood, sweat, tears and pieces of the track embedded into my shoulder and knee.
It has been years since I competed in the sport of Track & Field. Years since I jumped a hurdle. And when I look back, I remember having many amazing races. I had many accomplishments that I could be proud of. Yet the race that still haunts me is the one that I quit when I just walked off the track instead of finishing the race.
What changed for me? What happened, that went from letting fear take over, to enduring through to the end? Was it as simple as making up my own mind to do better? Because that's what I did.
I started practicing harder. I started to work on form. I started doing drills that would help me get over the hurdles. I practiced jumping over them. And I started envisioning soaring over them with ease. My mind and body gained more confidence, and I continued to improve. It was all a matter of what I set my mind to. My thoughts. My ability came down to the words I was telling myself. It was all in my head.
It took years to really grasp the importance and power of that phrase. And realize that if it is in my head then there is something that can be done about it.
So what can be done? You become aware of the words you speak. The words you think. The anxiety that takes over. The fear of failure. The fear of success. The fear of rejection. Becoming aware is the first step to change. And when you become mindful and aware, make the choice to stop listening to the voices that are holding you back.
Stop feeding your fear more thoughts of fear and 'what if's' and 'why's'. Stop making excuses. Decide what you want to be, and be it. Does that mean you will be the greatest hurdler in the world? Maybe. It didn't for me. But that's not really what I worked for. I wanted to do my best in everything I did. I wanted to finish strong and do well. And show up. And never quit a race again.
I started realizing the power that my words had over my life. I just didn't realize how much power until I was well into my adult years and was going through my divorce. But that's another story.
The words we speak become our reality. What do you want your reality to be like?
Words have so much power. Be mindful of the words you think. Be mindful of the words you say. And the next time fear starts taking a hold of you, take a deep breath in and let it out. Then do it again. The fear is trying to protect you from failing. Don't let it take over your actions. Don't let it mess with your mind. Because when the hurdles of life are in front of you, which they will be, you will have the choice to quit or to get over them and finish what you started no matter what happens to you. It is a choice.
You can reasons or you can have results.
And that choice is all in your head.
Here's the thing. You can make the choice to change at any moment. That's right! You can start over now. If the day didn't start the way you wanted it to, take a deep breath and start over. If something happens that throws you off in the middle of the day, start over. I used to be a server and would tell myself and the other servers many times through out the hard shifts that "Today is going to be amazing starting now!" And it really helped me shift my mood.
So take a deep breath in and make the choice. It is all in your head.
So make the choice to show up and shine. And when fear creeps in, shine even brighter.
Namaste dear soul. Namaste.