"We must not allow other people's limited perceptions to define us" Virginia Satir
"Never, never let others define you"--this short, yet powerful phrase was echoed by former Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith during his acceptance speech following his induction into the Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio just a few short months ago. They were such powerful and motivating words that when I heard them I could not help but recall the many times I allowed others to define me even when I knew they were wrong.
A few years ago I wrote a blog about how my 6th grade P.E. teacher nonchalantly mentioned to me, an influential kid, that I would never be a runner because I could not finish running the 600 yard run required to pass the Presidential Fitness Test. Somehow I took these words to heart and I allowed them to define me for the next 30 plus years.
Every time I attempted to become a ‘runner’ and fell short, I recalled those words that were etched in my memory and I began to believe them. I believed that I would never be a runner--that was until I decided I would no longer allow anyone to define me.
The process did not happen overnight. It took days, weeks, months, and yes, even years to let go of a stigma I had carried with me for far too long. It was almost easier to fall back on those words than it was to go through the training and perseverance it took, not only to become a runner, but to actually call myself a runner.
It wasn’t easy. Running is tough. I can still recall my first 30 second run I ever did on the treadmill at my gym over four and a half years later. My first run, I was left gasping for air with burning legs and a pounding heart that I must confess I did consider giving up. After all giving up was something that I had grown accustomed to doing when anything that I considered tough stood in my way.
But this journey was going to be different. I was no longer going to allow my fear to stand in my way of meeting a life-long goal to be a runner. I did a nice recovery walk until I was ready to pick it back up for a 30 second run yet again. I repeated this scenario over the next several months until I was able to run 2 miles without stopping.
Funny how after all these years I still remember where I was in the gym, which treadmill I was on and even what I was wearing the day I decided to never let anyone define me. It's hard not to let go, but it is far easier when you have others believe in you and share in your dream. This journey is not about being the best--it's about being the BEST me I can be and not allowing others to tell me otherwise.
Have you or do you allow others to define you? What has been your biggest obstacle of letting go of the stigma others define you as?
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