Warning: I’m about to get real. I mean real in terms of my experiences and my thoughts. In order for me to write this blog, I had to dig. I had to get real with myself. I had to expose what was really going on behind the curtain of my experiences. What you see on the outside is most often never what’s going on the inside for most people. Let’s admit that now. We all, to some extent, walk around with a sheer curtain drawn – sometimes without even realizing it.
Get Real Fact Check #1: I was once told to my face, when I was in my 30’s, that I did not have thick skin. I know, that sounds harsh. It was. It was the response thrown back to me after a comment that I put out to this person that was probably equally as harsh – “I don’t like the way I’m being managed.” To the person who told me that I did not have thick skin – YOU WERE SO RIGHT! Thank you. Seriously. Those words were harsh, but brutally true. It took me days to grow any kind of skin to approach the office of one of my supervisor’s and talk about an incident that upset me. What came out of the conversation was not what I expected (I have thin skin) or probably how either of us wanted it to end. When I returned home that evening I cried…. all night. Truth be told, it really turned out to be one of the best lessons of my life. BE THE STRONG WOMAN THAT YOU CAN BE. STOP TAKING THINGS PERSONALLY. PUT ON YOUR BIG GIRL PANTS AND STRUT WITH CONFIDENCE – EVEN WHEN YOU DON’T FEEL CONFIDENT.
Unfortunately, that reality check happened well after my stint as a professional triathlete.
Get Real Fact Check #2 #3: I spent my professional triathlon racing days racing out of fear and total lack of self-confidence. I rarely celebrated when things went well. My skin looked good. It was tan, but it was thin. Take a look at the pictures of me below. These are photos of me racing in the mid to late 90’s.
If I didn’t know myself intimately behind the curtain, the words that would come to mind would be STRENGTH, CONFIDENCE, POWERFUL! Truth be told, I doubted myself in the days leading up to races. I doubted myself right up the the starting line. In high school, just before the start of my cross-country races, I’d run away and come a nose hair close to talking myself out of going to the starting line. My coach had to come find me and talk me into it. Pure dread! You would never know this. I set course records for almost every race that I ran. I know, it’s hard to believe. My self talk leading into all races, including the seconds prior to the start revolved around how much the race was going to hurt. As a matter of fact, just before the starting gun blew for most of my pro triathlon races, I’d say to myself, “shit, this is going to hurt so bad for the next 2 hours” or, “I don’t belong here.” I feared all of the pain that I would have to endure during the bike and run to make up for the fact that I was always in the 2nd pack coming out of the water. My strength was that I could endure the suffering and eventually make my way up to the front. My self talk, however was in the toilet when it came to being positive. It was that self talk that kept me from being a National or World Champion.
Get Real Fact Check #5: In my mid 20’s, I applied for the job as head cross country coach after being the interim coach for a year. I didn’t get the job. While there were some odd occurrences around the process that shook me, the bottom line is that I blew the interviews. I won’t even go into the 1980’s style outfit that I wore for the full day of questioning and meetings. I lacked in total confidence, including the confidence in how I carried myself. My self talk sucked. My underoos were slipping so far down that my crack was probably peeping out of the ugly sheers that I wore. I’m keeping this fact check short. My skin was thin and my underwear was child size.
Get Real Fact Check #6: I actually was wearing big girl pants by the age of 5, but then I lost them.
I lost them after I lost my mother at the age of 10. This profoundly impacted my life. I had not one female mentor in my life. I felt alone. My father was a risk taker (still is), a business man, a man of great confidence and well known in the community. I was intimidated by him (his confidence) and I wanted him to be proud of me. I aimed to please and to follow an early life built upon being structured and organized. Keep it neat, simple and orderly – that’s how we cope. I am grateful to him for my resiliency. Somehow, I always ended up being surrounded by support. Support of teachers, coaches, teammates and even in my personal relationships. These were people who believed in me – who helped my get through my struggles and who wanted to take care of me.
Get Real Fact Check #7: In my early thirties I left my marriage and I left the safe community where I grew up (“where everybody knows your name”). At the time, I felt it was because I needed to explore a relationship with a woman … and painfully I did. However, the true journey was about exploring myself. Alone. Independently. Butt naked. It was about going through struggle upon struggle without the net of someone to catch me as I was falling. It was about ENDURING a different kind of pain and the search to find my big girl pants that I lost at such a young age. At the time, I didn’t know that was what the journey was about. It was a journey that evolved.
I started racing again when I hit my early forties and after moving back to the area where I grew up. I went to the starting line, ALWAYS with a confident and excited mindset. I wanted to rip up the course. I didn’t care about anyone around me at the starting line. As a matter of fact, I couldn’t wait to get to the starting line, couldn’t wait for the heavy breathing and for that period in the race when I confronted going beyond “the red line.” I would count the days. It was me against the course. A game between me and the push. I had no fear.
I also began my own coaching business. Ironically, I came back to what I was supposed to be doing as my career – and on my own terms. I coach both men and women, but my primary role as a coach is to guide other women in putting on their on their own big girl pants and to get comfortable in them. I want them to get to know themselves intimately – especially during those hard stretches of the struggle. I want them to trust in their journey, to see it through, to not give a shit about what others think, to stand up for themselves and to create their own support network. I gently coax them to put their toes on the line. I can occasionally hear my old, self-doubting voice in some of the women that I coach. I remind them of the words that I needed to hear –
“Be gentle with yourself. Be kind to yourself – the journey is almost always hard. Don’t worry if you fall – you probably will a few times over. Be sure to get back up. You owe yourself that. Pick yourself back up because the trail keeps going and eventually your going to find it opens up and you’ll know exactly where you are supposed to be. The big girl pants will slip and expose your butt crack. It can be embarrassing and funny at the time, or when you look back on it. Remember to laugh about it. Be your your own advocate and your own best friend. Walk tall and as if you know exactly where you are going, even if you aren’t sure. Celebrate, or at the very least acknowledge, those little things that are going well.”
Final Get Real Fact Check #8: I discovered my female mentor. She is every single woman that I have had the opportunity to work with as a partner in their journey toward something greater, healthier, happier. Life does not just go on smooth sailing. We hit freshly paved road, and then we hit bumps. They are inevitable. When I hit them in my own personal life, I draw upon their courage and the fact that they are also working through bumps. We are all rolling through the the bumps together. We are a sisterhood. Knowing that, I am reminded to get out of bed, put on my big girl pants, pull them right on up to my belly button and start walking.