One year ago I ran my first 5K. I know because social media told me so, reminding me of that euphoric moment crossing the finishing line with Mariah blasting in my ears. Seeing it crop up on my feed made me feel a mix of emotions.
The memory is a very special one for me because it was such a huge personal achievement, and yet, 12 months later, I felt a failure for not putting on my running shoes since. Don’t get me wrong, my current training sessions feature routine sprints that make me want to vom, but nothing so goal-oriented as running up the Meydan Bridge with hundreds of other people.
Just to be clear, It’s not as though I was planning on running marathons on the back of this (I’m well aware of my limitations!) but I did think it could be the start of something. Maybe I would do 5K runs for fun, join a running club and finally banish those negative memories of a young Laura wheezing in the back of cross country at school. Traumatic to say the least.
What I’ve come to realize is that our expectations are constantly changing in line with our new reality each day. Even though I do wish I had kept up the running (at least a bit) there are other things that I have focused on and that’s OK. You’ve heard the expression ‘you do you’ and it’s only in the last few months I’ve actually taken this on board.
My own journey to better health hasn’t been linear, recently culminating in me understanding that not all challenges are physical ones. We have such preconceived notions of ourselves, shaped by previous experiences, both good and bad, that sometimes it can be hard to shift our mindsets. In my case that’s around self-worth.
I’m a total contradiction at times. I love routine, yet I’m easily bored, so investing in a variety of things that make me happy and also challenge me has been the best way to combat this. I’ve smashed a lot of my goals this year, while also quietly letting other ones go. Others I have put on hold for another time, because as much as I try to be, I’m not superwoman.
Procrastination is my number one enemy and when combined with low self esteem it can mean that I am the worst kind of perfectionist; the kind that never gets anything done. Perhaps that’s why I’m just getting to the main point of this article now. You see, I’ve been wanting to get professional shots done for a LONG time. The last time I strategically picked out outfits like this and got a killer blowout was 2018, right at the start of my freelancing journey.
I don’t remember feeling uncomfortable at the time, aside from the usual awkwardness that comes with learning how to pose, but I was aware that I was heavier than I’d like and I spent a lot of the day holding in my stomach; it’s a miracle I didn’t give myself a hernia by the end of the shoot to be honest.
Looking back on those photos now, as cool as they are, I feel no connection to that person. I can tell she isn’t happy, but putting on a brave face and trying to come across as relaxed and carefree. The BTS shots still make me smile because I’m much more unguarded, laughing and joking, while eyeing up a donut with an almost indecent relish. Side note - I can confirm it was delicious.
The memory of this has held me back for four years. I kept putting it off until I was thinner, more successful; the epitome of perfection. It was a chance comment by a new friend asking me if I had a website for my services that was the catalyst this time for me finally taking the plunge. I realized it was a ‘now or never’ type of situation.
Then I worried about it for two weeks. Would it all come off OK? Would my expectations of how I looked and felt now match the reality on camera? I’m lucky that the photographer is a friend and a legend at his job, plus the shoot would be at home, meaning I could control the environment and plan in advance about the kind of shots needed. I even had a moodboard.
But all this planning seemed to up my stress levels, so much so my chin erupted in angry red spots that no amount of clean eating, sleep and a caffeine ban would fix. Thanks to some industrial-strength concealer and expert makeup application on the day you wouldn’t know this on camera.
I got down from the metaphorical ledge and gave myself a mental pep talk. The excitement came back, I relaxed into it with some classic 90s tunes. I felt good and it showed. Working hard on my physical strength has altered my shape, and in turn, given me back my confidence. Who knew?! Only kidding, I’m sure we’re all hyper aware of this narrative, but it is true nonetheless.
Last November it felt like I had climbed Everest finishing that 5K, but this year’s euphoric moment of triumph came from a much more unexpected place. The correlation between the two only struck me at the end of my shoot. It’s not all about what we achieve physically. Sometimes it’s the smaller, quieter moments of reflection that are worthy of recognition too.
In my case, smiling for an afternoon, pretending to type on my laptop, drinking from an empty cup, and yes, sitting un-slouched and alert on my couch, will rank very highly in my 2022 roll call of accomplishments.
How about you?