How To Stop Caring If Strangers Think You're A Runner Or Not
Do you remember the last time someone acted surprised when they found out that you run? Maybe it happened once or maybe it happens daily; my question is, why do we care?
For years I felt self conscious about myself, my strength, and my identity as a runner. "I'm not a real runner" or "But I'm not fast" I'd say to anyone who raised their eyebrows when they found out that I ran. Even after I ran my first marathon, I would catch myself saying, "I ran the marathon, but I'm not REALLY a marathoner." I couldn't help myself! I cared way too much about what other people thought about me instead of focusing on how I felt about myself.
I see it all the time. It's one of the comments I see most frequently on my social media accounts from other runners. They tell me that people act surprised when they find out that they run because they don't look like your "stereotypical runner". The problem is, we have all come to this decision that someone who is in shape, or who can run, should look a certain way. You see it everyday in magazines or tweets like this --
The sooner we can acknowledge that the perfect A-List body is marketing and not something we should all strive for, the better off we'll be. Working out or losing weight just to look like a movie star won't solve your problems. I know because that's what I thought would happen when I changed my entire life to lose over 75 pounds. I thought that being skinny would make me happy or that it would make life easier for me. CURVE BALL, it didn't. It wasn't until I started running and in turn believing in myself and my strength that I started feeling confident, happy, and capable.
I'm tired of seeing people feel like they need to look a certain way in order to feel good about themselves. The goal should never be to have an A-List body. Strength and confidence don't look a certain way. Being healthy isn't one size fits all.
Letting go of how much I cared about other people's opinions didn't happen overnight, it took a lot of proactive work on my part. We give so much of ourselves on long runs, on the track, on a bike, in the pool, or in the gym, and yet we do nothing to strengthen the way we see ourselves. Why? Why do we feel like we need to prove our strength and worth to anyone other than ourselves? It wasn't until I started actively looking in the mirror and celebrating what I liked or what made me proud that I stopped caring about what people might think about me.
Being able to run a certain distance or pace isn't what defines a runner. A runner is anyone who strives to put their strongest foot forward. It doesn't matter if that's a 30 minute mile or a 5 minute mile. Honestly, the people who inspire and motivate me the most aren't the people with perfect bodies. It's the people who don't believe they can run around their block and then make it happen. The runners who have defined themselves and what they're capable of and still set out to make a change. Trying to change who you think you are is one of the most difficult things you can do. That's why I'm not motivated or inspired by a finished product. I want to see a work in progress.
Getting healthy shouldn't be about trying look a certain way, it's about being the best version of you possible both inside and out. If you want to stop caring about what other people think about you, you have to start believing in your own strength and potential. Until you can look in the mirror and feel proud of what you see because you know how hard you're working, you'll always feel hurt when someone is surprised when they find out that you run. Don't worry about proving yourself to anyone but yourself. You're strong, you're beautiful, and you're capable of anything. Life is all about putting one foot in front of the other. It's your job to make sure that you're putting your strongest foot forward.