Watching friends, old acquaintances, and perfect strangers do epic things on social media can be super fun. Woah, people do all kinds of crazy cool stuff! Trips and ultramarathons and insane workouts and grad school and babies and, and, and. It’s fun to watch— but there can be an insidious kind of creep from fun into FOMO into frustration. There will always be someone more accomplished, more intense, stronger, faster, than you are. Don’t let this belittle your accomplishments! And don’t let it stop you from trying, either. It’s like pendulum between these two poles— can you balance challenging yourself with honoring yourself? Being inspired to excel with being proud of what you’ve already accomplished?
My long run last weekend was 7 miles. Whether that’s crazy intense, or borderline lazy, depends on who you ask. An ultramarathoner might say “that’s cute,” whereas a non-athlete might say “that’s insane”. I don’t think it’s lazy or insane. I think it’s a little bit of a stretch beyond “easy” and it felt great. You don’t need to feel bad about yourself because other people do more. There’s always more. More isn’t always better. Sometimes more is injury and bad moods and burnout.
Then again, I was proud of myself for biking the six miles to work a few times recently. But the other day, it was pretty cold and possibly going to snow, so I took the bus instead. Students and coworkers of mine biked, though. I could have, I realized. Am I afraid of being cold? Wet? Am I worried about being unsafe, or uncomfortable? Or am I just making excuses? I need to have actual conversations with myself to tease this out. Lucky for me, circumstance forced it— the train I was going to take on a sleety morning was running super late. My choices were to also be super late, or to bike. I biked. And I lived to tell the tale. It wasn’t even all that hard. The worst things that happened to me was that my fingers were kind of cold for half an hour. So, I needed that kick in the pants from mother nature. More was, in fact, better, at least that day.
I recently read (listened to, actually) David Goggins’ book Can’t Hurt Me. He’s famously spoken about the way our minds trick us into thinking we’ve met our body’s limits. I can’t do more, you think, when you’re at about 40% of your potential. This is super cool to think about. It’s inspiring. It helps to challenge that voice that says “I can’t”, when another voice says “I wish I could”. And there’s the key, I think: do you wish you could? Or do you feel like you should because someone else does?