Anna’s internal monologue needed to change. She realized that the things she was telling herself were keeping her comfortable and safe — but also holding her back. Here’s the story of how she began to believe in herself.
After having knee surgery when I was 15 years old, my doctor told me that I should swear off running completely because my knees just aren’t built for repeated pavement-pounding. Because I hate running, I gleefully said, “Okay!”
I also hate running because I fell off a treadmill in college once. I was wearing a bright, colorful, tye-dyed t-shirt, so I was easily spotted. I got distracted by something, tripped, smacked the tread with my face, and was expeditiously hurled off the back of the machine, narrowly avoiding a collision with the (occupied) elliptical machines. Perfect GIF material — I should be famous!
Someone casually asked me, “Are you okay?” and other than a little tread-burn, I was not physically injured. But mentally, I was not okay. I was horribly embarrassed, angry, and sad that my repeated efforts at exercise still weren’t turning me into the stunning, gazelle-like woman I thought I needed to be to get a boyfriend.
“What an idiot. You know you aren’t a runner, and you embarrassed yourself again trying to be something you’re not. Give up already.”
That day — and the days, weeks, months, and years that followed — I was not a friend to myself. I recently found my diary from my high school and college years, and I felt so sad reading the words I said to myself:
“You’ll never be pretty, so why even try.”
“Even if you lost 30lbs, he still wouldn’t go out with you.”
“You’ve tried to lose weight your whole life, what makes you think this time will be different?”
“Your friends only like you in a group setting. No one wants to hang out with just you.”
“You’ll never get everything you want out of life. You need to start learning how to settle for less.”
“You can’t… ”
“You aren’t… enough. You’ll never be enough.”
Can you imagine having a friend who talks to you this way? How long would you let that person continue to be your friend? I’m not sure about you, but I would not let a person who says these kinds of things anywhere close to my circle.
For too many years, I didn’t believe in myself at all, and I talked down to myself constantly. I didn’t trust that I was capable of great things, so I didn’t try. The voice in my head that convinced me not to ask my crush to senior prom was the same voice that told me I wouldn’t get into the colleges I really wanted to go to. So I didn’t ask, and I didn’t apply
I let that voice dominate my life for years. I realize now that this voice was keeping me safe. Comfort is safe. Doing what you’ve always done because you know you can do it is safe. If I don’t take any risks, I can’t get hurt. Where there is no loss, there is no pain — but also no change.
This voice in my head — my voice — does everything possible to keep me in my comfort zone. And when I listen to this voice, life is comfortable — but mundane at best.
Slowly, I’ve come to realize that I don’t want a humdrum life. I’m called to more.
There’s another voice — which is also my voice — that begs me to step into the most vibrant version of myself. This voice is crying out to me — to change and learn and try and fail and get back up again. It wants me to reach toward growth and resilience so that I can meet and exceed my potential. This is the voice that encouraged me to live overseas multiple times. The voice that flung me headfirst into a whirlwind romance that taught me so much about myself. The voice that finally told me to stop running away from what I truly desire out of this life.
Life is always about choosing which voice to listen to — both of those voices are within me, and always will be. It’s like a radio dial: the closer I get to tuning into one station or the other, the louder and more clear that message becomes.
I frequently have moments of self-doubt when I hear, loudly, that voice telling me I can’t and won’t achieve my goals. I appreciate that this Protector Voice is trying to keep me out of harm’s way, but it often holds me back. And I refuse to be held captive by the voices in my head that tell me I am destined for anything less than what God created me for.
Years later, I was running in a 5k holiday race (did I mention that I hate running?). My friends bribed me into registering because at the end of the run there would be a giant dance party and free beer — two of my favorite things! It was for charity and I’d be running with friends, so I went along with it.
I had barely trained, so on the day of the race, I told my friends to run ahead because I knew they could reach the dancing and booze faster than me, and I didn’t want to hold them up.
Translation: my Protector Voice was telling me I wouldn’t be able to keep up. Lies!
It was a cold morning, and fueled by hot coffee and adrenaline, we set off. The first thing I did was start to compare myself to others and estimate fitness levels by the way a person looked. I picked out one runner and thought, “I can keep up with them.” So I just did my best to keep up with that one person.
Then that person took a break to walk, and something changed inside me. I know it was a Christmas race, but I truly felt like an angel spoke to me, saying: “Just keep running. You CAN do this.”
And suddenly, I felt invincible — I had tuned my dial to a new radio station in my head. For the rest of the race, I said (sometimes out loud):
“You got this, girl!”
“One foot in front of the other. That’s it!”
“Feel how strong your legs are!”
“Your body is AMAZING! Your heart and lungs are so powerful!”
“You can do anything for 30 minutes!”
“You CAN do this!”
“Free booze!” (Okay, this one is not one I repeat daily, but it was motivating in the moment.)
I was in the middle of doing a thing I despise, am not particularly good at, and by most accounts shouldn’t have been doing in the first place.
My belief in myself and my internal monologue of positivity allowed me to run all 3.1 miles without stopping — not even once! I really couldn’t believe I did it, and I am certain it was the shift toward positive self-talk that got me through. I ended up surprising myself by how persistent, strong, and powerful those words can be.
And from then on, I believed so much more that what I say to myself matters. Rather than beating myself up for my shortcomings, I make a real effort to intentionally and positively — yet humbly — build my self-esteem.
Now, I express gratitude every day for the body I’ve been given, and I try to work cooperatively with myself. Being thankful for the gifts and talents that I was created with makes me want to share them with others. And loving my gifts has also helped me love myself when I’m scared, anxious, or nervous.
I believe I am capable of doing things I’m afraid of doing — of taking risks where I could very well fail — because I trust myself to bounce back from it all. Now I tell myself:
I am resilient.
I am strong.
I am capable.
I am loving.
I am beautiful.
I am worthy and deserving of love.
And I am all of these things because I simply exist. God wouldn’t have put me on this Earth if He didn’t love me enough to want me here. Knowing that truth — really knowing it and trusting God’s love — has formed a foundation within me for resilience and hope. It’s a place to find my footing when pessimism and self-doubt start to shake me. Changing the way I talk to myself is a way to build on that foundation, to let God’s light shine more brightly within me, to believe that I am capable of more.