Don’t stop believing

I’ve been thinking a lot about the psychology of racing, or simply participating in sport. It won’t come as any surprise to anyone who knows me to hear that I’m a perfectionist. I set myself goals that I want to hit (for example, I want a sub-2 hour half marathon time) but then I don’t train properly for it, because part of me believes that I won’t be able to do it anyway. By not training enough I give myself an “excuse” not to have achieved the goal, rather than not hitting the goal because of some other, deeper failing of mine.

This is, as you can imagine, hugely unhelpful and damaging to my self-esteem, as I constantly feel disappointed and frustrated.

I oscillate between two scenarios:

  • If I tell myself I don’t care (and then don’t train/prepare), I run the risk of not doing well and then feel annoyed with myself for letting myself down.
  • If I do care, I become paralysed by the enormity of the situation and become convinced that I can’t do it – which, of course, means that I then can’t.

Friends tell me they’re proud of my achievements, but I can’t think of a single sporting achievement that I’m genuinely proud of (except perhaps getting a Merit in Grade 8 Ballet, because that was so ridiculously against the odds and took so much hard work).

It’s taking that first step. Believing you can do something, then working towards it, and dealing with the fallout of what happens if you don’t quite make it. Written down, that sounds so simple.

Like a moth with a light bulb, I keep throwing myself into futile situations where I can only expect to see the same old outcomes. Friends say I’m brave for trying new things (marathon, cyclocross, track, triathlon) but being brave would be putting myself on the line and seeing whether I can really do it, not making a web of excuses for myself to fall back into when I lose my nerve once again.

I cannot go on like this.


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