If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times. I’ve heard it from runners, Future-Runners and non-runners alike. I have struggled with it myself.
“I’ll look stupid.”
“People will laugh at me.”
“They’ll say ‘Look at the [hippo/turtle/insert your fear here] coming down the street!'”
As Seth Godin says in his book Tribes, it isn’t necessarily the fear of failure that keeps us from trying, it is the fear of being criticized. He says: “We choose not to be remarkable because we’re worried about criticism…Fear of criticism is a powerful deterrent because the criticism doesn’t actually have to occur for the fear to set in” (p. 46-47).
When I struggle with the fear of criticism, I try to remind myself of a few things:
First, most people won’t notice me at all. Face it, people are thinking about their own lives don’t really give a hoot what I am doing. Second, even if they do notice me and think something negative, what harm does it do me? I’ll never know they’ve thought it.
Third, in those rare cases where someone actually does hurl an insult in my direction, again, what difference does it make? There are people in my life for whom I care a great deal, and I care what they think of me, I value their input. These clowns are not on that list! I also remind myself that most of them are in no position to criticize. I may not look like a cover-model for a fitness program, but I am doing something I enjoy that happens to be good for my health. Politely put, many of them have the audacity to make these comments while displaying behaviours much more worthy of criticism.
My theory is that these folks are rude because deep down they are jealous. They may be past-runners who wish they still ran. Or they wish they had the dedication it takes to be a runner, not to mention the love of the sport. As Seth points out, if I am being talked about, well at least I am doing something worth talking about.
Still hesitating because you don’t want to show the world your stride? Try one more thing: ask yourself, what is the worst thing that someone could say to me that would hurt me the most? Now imagine someone saying it to you. Better yet, imagine them saying it to you in front of a crowd of people. Then imagine finishing your run. What’s the worst that happens? Maybe you feel insulted or hurt for a little while, or maybe you realize it wasn’t as bad as you thought. Either way, you still burned those calories, worked on your fitness and improved your health. Either way, you still ran.