“The more I run, the less I care about what other people think,” I recently confessed to a close friend of mine. She wondered whether it could be caused by the fact that I’ve become more physically fit, and I thought about that for a moment. “Yes and no,” I told her.
It’s true that, over the past nine months of watching what I eat and regular running, I’ve brought about greater physical transformations than what I ever would’ve thought possible. I’ve dropped some pounds and even traded some in for muscle. But I don’t think my I-don’t-care-what-you-think-attitude can be contributed solely to this.
I’ve built self confidence. Strength. Stamina. Endurance.
All those things could not have been achieved by improved physicality alone. Each mile I conquer brings about mental and emotional changes as well. A feeling of accomplishment. (There are still days where I pinch myself, thinking, “I really did finish my first 5K in 26.09 minutes!”)
When I first started running, I would only run early in the morning since I was less likely to be seen then. My form was bad. My hair looked awful. I was drenched in sweat. I was self-conscious about every little thing. I had flashes of “Run Forest, run!” playing on a continuous loop in my head. Not that I ever once heard anyone say anything, negative or otherwise. No jokes from passersby, no snide comments. But, in my head, I felt every criticism, either real or imagined, I felt it. I just didn’t realize that the loudest voice of all was the one in my own head.
Now, the welcome sound of my feet hitting pavement drowns out everything. Negativity and self-defeating comments aren’t even a whisper.
These days, I run whenever and wherever–morning, evening, broad daylight, along a busy street or through a quiet neighborhood. With people. All alone. In a race against the clock or my own self imposed goals. When I pass others walking or running in the opposite direction, I look them in the eye and nod “hello” instead of dropping my gaze.
I’ve come to realize my own opinion about myself is what really matters most in the end. And the voice I hear is kinder, more caring, stronger and more prominent than ever before.