Life is hard. One of the biggest gifts that running has given me is the ability to believe in myself in spite of the unknown. You see, running wasn't just difficult, it was impossible. But somehow, I started putting one foot in front of the other and as I got stronger, my goals got bigger. 3 mile runs became 6 mile runs. Then a half marathon happened and I somehow decided to run a marathon.
Running taught me that even though something may feel impossible or incredibly out of reach, it doesn't mean you should do everything you can to make it a reality. One of the hardest parts about moving towards a goal that seems impossible is accepting the possibility of failure. No one wants to fail. It's soul crushing when you invest everything you have and then fall short. But running has also taught me the importance of being honest about what needs improvement and then being patient to see the results.
When I graduated from College, I panicked. I didn't know what to do next and I made the decision to sit and wait until I found a way to take my next step. That's how I found running. I always hated being physically active. I hated the way it made me feel about myself and I loathed the fact that I wasn't good at it. But I started running because I had absolutely nothing else going for me. Running didn't just give me a way to fill my time, it gave me a way to forge a new path for myself.
I love the saying, "The end of one thing is the beginning of something else" because I don't believe in finality. I don't think anything really "ends". Even when something isn't here anymore, it still affects and influences you for years to come. I don't want to say I was a different person when I graduated College but I've definitely learned a lot in the years since collecting my diploma and I wanted to share 10 pieces of advice for my younger self --
1. Remove The Shame.
Before I started Run, Selfie, Repeat, I was a guarded and private person. A lot of it had to do with shame but I was uncomfortable speaking candidly about my life because I was terrified of being judged. My insecurities ran my life and I thought that if I could control what people knew about me, I'd ultimately feel better about myself. So I stayed tight lipped about who I was dating, what I was struggling with, my fears, my hopes, or what I was going through and I built this intimidating wall and I found myself alone on the inside. Keeping people out became a habit and not only was I exhausted, I was lonely.
Then I went viral and I found myself at a crossroads; do I let it blow over or do I step onto the platform that appeared in front of me, start a blog and open up. Blogging meant that I had totear down the wall that I had spent decades building. I didn't know what I was doing. I didn't think I would be able to handle the trolls and online criticism. I didn't think I was interesting or worthy of an audience. But I started writing and immediately I found it therapeutic to talk about the things I spent so long feeling ashamed about. And then I started getting emails from people all around the world who would open up to me about their struggles and triumphs and I felt confident about opening up because I felt like I was helping people.
There is so much freedom when you remove the shame and the guilt from the things that happen in your life that you really don't have any control over. What I once believed were skeletons in my closet are simply just parts of my story. They don't define me or make up who I am, they're just a part of me. I made the choice to feel ashamed about them and I wasted a lot of time caring about what other people thought about me instead of looking in the mirror and telling myself that I had nothing to be ashamed of. Liberate yourself from your past, just own it. Take the next step.
2. Not Everyone Is Going To Like You. And That's OK.
Now there's a flip side to being so open and vulnerable, you put yourself in a position to not only be criticized but to have people attack your character and your identity and that's a difficult bridge to cross. When I went viral, I read some truly terrible things about myself from total and complete strangers. And to this day, people say things online about me that don't criticize the things I do but attack my character.
Not everyone is going to like you and that is OK! There are two types of people in this world, people who will give you constructive criticism and then there are people who will give you their opinions. Want to know what we can do with an opinion? Nothing. An attack on my character is an opinion. But constructive criticism? That gives me something to think about, a way to evolve, learn and move forward. Yes constructive criticism can be hard to swallow or it can feel like an attack but it's important to listen objectively and learn from the criticism. People who care about you will give you constructive criticism. Insecure assholes will give you their opinion. Love the assholes, they don't know how to love themselves.
3. Don't Be Intimidated By Failure.
I've made a lot of mistakes and most of them have been in front of an audience or in front of some pretty intimidating and influential people. But being authentic and owning your mistakes is the only way to fight the urge to dig yourself a grave and hide from the embarrassment when they happen. No one is perfect and not only do most people not know what they're doing but no one expects you to! What they do expect you to do is try to figure it out. Have a YES attitude. Don't be intimidated by the unknown. Life doesn't have a playbook. There's no right or wrong, only better and worse choices. Make a worse choice, you'll live! You aren't just going to fail, you're going to fail in HUGE GARGANTUAN ways. Don't let your failures define you or intimidate you, just learn from them. Brush yourself off and move on.
4. Be Authentic.
It's hard to trust your instincts or your gut when you're marching to the beat of your own drum. When I was getting started, everyone told me to change what I was doing and be more like everyone else. So against my better judgement, I changed and it didn't work. Why? Because I wasn't being me! No one wants a copy cat, they want you. It takes a lot of courage to be authentic because you don't get to hide behind empty choices. You're invested in your authentic self whether you want to be or not.
That's the hardest part about social media, everything is calculated. Everything. In spite of the perfect cultivated news feeds, try to be as authentic as possible. Own your flaws because those are what make you human. Your flaws make you interesting, relate-able and believable. Stay true to who you are and be open to change. Be brave enough to be boring every once in a while. Fight the urge to show off. Talk about your failures. Talk about your success. Be open, honest and transparent. Grow and change but never, ever, ever stray from your authentic voice.
5. You Are Worthy Of Honest Love.
Do not wait for love to smack you in the face. Love is not going to fall into your lap. You have to work for it. Your heart is a muscle and it will only get stronger if you work on it. There's nothing scarier than telling someone you love them but don't let doubt stop you from falling in love. Sometimes people aren't ready for your love. That's OK. Love is a gift and you shouldn't give it only if you think your gift will be reciprocated. It's a selfless gift. Be patient. Be kind. Be brave. Don't change who you are or what you believe in for someone else. You are perfect just the way you are. And be ready to get your heart broken. That's what happens when you love fearlessly.
There are no excuses not to see the world. Money? Nope, not an excuse. Make a plan, work towards it, and make it happen. Don't wait to see the world. Make it a priority.
7. Ask For Help.
People want to help, you just have to ask for it. Don't let your pride get in the way. Don't try to do it on your own. Ask for people's advice, ask for their help and thank them for their time.
8. Look In The Mirror And Love What You See.
Wake up every single morning, look in the mirror, smile, and then say something nice about yourself. Always work to put your best foot forward but never forget to love where you're at today. If you don't love and celebrate yourself, why should anyone else?
9. Be Kind.
You do not know what someone else is going through. Be kind and be gracious to everyone around you. You don't know who is a breath away from drowning. Give people the benefit of the doubt whenever possible.
10. Have Fun.
Most importantly, surround yourself with people who will be silly. Life's too short not to dance like no one is watching. The people who want to be something they're not, they're not worth your time. Just live in the moment and don't allow judgements stop you from having fun.
Yes, life is hard. You never know when your phone will ring and your world is going to come to a screeching hault. Don't waste your time on this earth waiting for something to happen. Make your own opportunities, believe in yourself, and work really, really, really hard to put your best foot forward. Be brave, be honest, be relentless, be transparent and be grateful. Look up.
Until next time, #RunSelfieRepeat.