Over the last number of years, the term of “labels” or “labelling ourselves” have started a lot of conversations. Many people don’t like to label themselves because they find if they do that, they’re almost stuck in a box and they can’t veer out of it. I have been very open and honest when I have spoken about being vegan; initially I didn’t want to put that label on it and preferred to say I was eating a plant-based diet. By calling myself vegan, I thought I had to be perfect at it one hundred percent of the time and I was almost afraid if someone called me out on something I did wrong (especially if it was accidental). I am not longer afraid to call myself a vegan and I do when it’s brought up in conversation. I can understand completely that some people don’t think it’s appropriate to label themselves and I’m in no way dismissing that, everyone has the right to what they choose to call themselves (or not call themselves), I’m simply speaking about my experience and not only about how I choose to label myself but why it has been difficult for me.
What am I? I am a woman. I am a daughter. I am a grand-daughter. I am a sister. I am a friend. I am a best friend. I am a girlfriend. I am partner. I am a work colleague. I am a vegan. I am in the media industry. I am a blogger. I am a gym go-er. I am a yogi. I am a learner. I am independent. All labels I am proud of.
So why was it so hard to call myself a runner? Expectations were a huge barrier for me and it goes back to the point of putting too much pressure on myself and being worried I was going to be judged by other people. When I first started out I told myself that I won’t be a real runner until I can run a certain distance without stopping, so when I did that, I automatically told myself that I had to run further to be classed as a runner. When I ran that further distance, I told myself that I had to do it within a certain time, so again, when I did that, I told myself that a real runner would do it faster. I also told myself that I couldn’t be a runner until I ran in a race but then when I did, it still didn’t feel right. Without me explaining over a dozen scenarios that went through my head, you can see the pattern developing and it’s not a healthy one.
Changing my mindset and perspective on this particular battle was hard, it really was. I like to think I’m determined (when I truly am passionate about something) and I have even been called stubborn. I’m not sure if stubborn is the right word but I believe when I want something, I work for it and I try not to ask for help along the way. In doing so, I’ve learned that sometimes you can’t do it all on your own and that in itself, has been a huge life lesson for me.
(Photography by Jess Lowe Photography)
Look at Olympic athletes, did I think they weren’t runners because they “only” ran 100m? Of course not. Did I think those who took part in a ParkRun weren’t runners because they weren’t hitting the specific time that I had in my head? Of course not. Did I think that runners were only “real” runners if they ran in official races? Of course not. So why did I think I wasn’t a runner?
I was listening to an interview with Tim Ferriss; I’m a huge fan of his work when it talks about mindset and routines specifically. I know I’ve heard him say this quite a few times but I’m not sure if this is his quote or someone else’s but he says “Always try to be the weakest person in the room, in some aspect” It’s a valid point because if you’re always the strongest person in the room, I truly don’t believe you will learn anything from others because you are at the highest point and everyone is looking to you. Whereas, if you are the weakest person, you’re looking towards others for advice and education on whatever that particular subject is. So next time I’m taking part in a race or a ParkRun for example, I know I won’t be the strongest person there and I’ll be getting overtaken right, left and centre but I can only look at that as a positive rather than a negative. I’ll be picking up my pace and I’ll be looking at them to see if they’re using any techniques I haven’t used yet in order to improve my running ability.
No matter how fast or slow I go and no matter how short or long the distance is, I am a runner and I am proud to call myself one.