An email alert let me know my friend Brenda had posted a photo of me on Facebook. A tiny warning bell went off in my head. We had just spent the weekend camping and running and living on very little sleep. While I didn’t expect to see a glamour shot of myself, nothing quite prepared me for what I saw when I logged in.
My first thought when I saw the photo was, “Who the hell is that?”
And, then the flood of realization. “F*%k. Me.” and “Good God. I look hideous.”
And then I experienced a deep flood of mortification from my head to my toes. “Delete, delete!” I wanted to scream, but the damage was done and the offending photo had been sitting there gathering “likes” for the last 16 hours.
Now, I know I am not a classical beauty in any sense of the term, however, I was overcome by a sense of shame for the face in that photo – mine – captured by an awkward tilt of the head, squinting eyes in the too bright sun, severely pulled back hair, and a distinct lack of a hat or sunglasses to mask my homeliness.
And then my little ego flew into a bit of a rage at the Universe. Here I donate an entire weekend to a friend, crewing and pacing her for her 100 mile run and this is how I am rewarded? What a kick in the teeth – which is what looked like had happened – what with my snaggle-tooth catching the sun-shadows.
It didn’t help my ego out at all, when I showed the picture to my guy, Jason, and he was first stunned into silence. Then shaking his head he summed it up by agreeing, “It’s pretty bad.”
Lessons Learned on the Run:
Lesson One: Life is unfair.
I know. This one isn’t a newsflash. And, yet, when your friend, the 100-mile runner, who is on mile 83 when you join her for the final 20 miles, looks better than you, well, there is at least some cold comfort in this reminder.
Lesson Two: Keep it in perspective.
Later, while on a walk around the block with Jason, we noticed a pick-up slowing down and a man peering out the window looking at a cute, little house being built. I asked the guy if he was the owner and he shook his head, no. “I’m the architect,” he said, and then he quickly added, “It’s a bit smaller and more budget than I usually design.” Because I could tell he was a bit embarrassed, even though the house is a cute as a button, I said kindly, “It’s good to have these types of projects in your portfolio, too; it keeps you human.” He gave a huge grin and as he drove away, Jason turned to me and said, “I think that is good advice – what if you take it for yourself?”
And, it is true, one REALLY bad picture of me on Facebook is humbling; it allows me to feel really, really human and stay connected to my human-ness, which is a gift. And, truth be told, it is one REALLY bad photo in what has literally been hundreds of other decent ones.
Lesson Three: Control what you can
I can’t control the pictures taken of me or what my friends decide is a decent enough photo to put out on social media. (Yes, I could demand to see each picture taken and ask them delete the ones where I look bad, and it seems a high maintenance strategy.)
What I can control is my ATTITUDE. I can locate an extra bit of resilience so my ego won’t be allowed to run me into the ground; I recognize one picture doesn’t have to define my sense of self or my perception of my own beauty.
I can locate the HUMOR. It isn’t lost on me how wacked-out it is that I was perseverating on a bad picture when there are MUCH greater injustices being inflicted on women in this world. (Or that a photo which got only about 70 “likes” is now being shared in a blog post which I am writing!)
And, I now know, without a shadow of doubt, I will run with a hat and sunglasses. And a paper sack over my head. 🙂
Lesson Four: Let go of unattainable ideals
The reality is this: I sweat a lot when I run and wearing make-up isn’t practical. Besides, I like SIMPLE and NATURAL. My choice to be AUTHENTIC, in this way, is in direct contrast to the portrayal of beautiful women in magazines, catalogs, and the internet. To hold myself to this standard of beauty is unrealistic and ridiculous.
Lesson Five: Embrace all your parts.
“You’d better just own that photo,” said my friend Lisa and she gently went on to say, “how about learning to love and embrace all of you?” She’s right. I need to love my snaggle-tooth and bad-hair days as much as I love my strong, muscular legs which carry me pretty effortlessly over 20 miles of technical terrain. I need to love my wrinkles and un-photogenic features as much as I love my perseverance and determination. All of it makes me who and what I am. I am ENOUGH.
Lesson Six: Don’t limit your happiness.
I sometimes ask my clients to look at their attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors as a way of limiting the amount of happiness they are willing to allow themselves to experience. Getting all worked up over a bad photo effectively dampened my happiness after a GREAT weekend crewing and pacing my friend.
The truth is, I LOVE, LOVE being in the midst of the endorphin rush of people going after and achieving a mind-blowing goal. I’m happy crawling out of a tent in the early morning dawn. I love seeing my runner head down the trail with 200 other ultrarunners. I get a kick out of seeing my runner come in right on schedule and knowing he/she is keeping pace. I enjoy hanging out by the campfire talking smack with other pacers waiting for their runners. I love the BADASSERY of sleeping in my car while I wait for my runner to show up at 12 a.m. and 2:00 a.m. and at 4:30 a.m. and so on until it is time for me to pace her/him to the finish line. I DELIGHT in the fact I can run 20 miles on very little sleep.
What are the ways you limit your happiness?
What if you embraced ALL of you, what would that be like?
I invite you to set aside your own unattainable ideals of perfection, of who you “should be” and begin to truly FALL IN LOVE with all of who YOU ARE. Are you ready to let go of your fear of what other people might think? Are you ready to thoroughly recognize and enjoy the FULL POTENTIAL of the person you are?
What if you are ENOUGH just the way you are?
I’d love to hear about the ways YOU keep it REAL and AUTHENTIC in your own life.