When my sister-in-law (Sam) asked me to write a guest blog about a recent biking trip, I found the question problematic. What would I, a lawyer, write about? Who would want to read my musings? Would the academic readers find my thoughts too trite? But when I talked to Samantha about what I might say, she encouraged me to go ahead.
I begin by mentioning my feelings of inadequacy because I struggled with similar feelings while biking. In writing this post, it made me wonder why.
To give some background, about five years ago I was asked by a close friend if I wanted to go with a group of her friends on a self-guided biking trip in France to celebrate her 50th birthday. As a relatively fit “travel tart”, I jumped at the chance. Several months later, 6 lawyers and 2 PhDs headed off to France to explore the Loire Valley by bicycle. Since then, the somewhat fluid group has gone on at least one “big” biking trip each year, and last month, four of us went to Colorado and Utah for a week of biking.
So why did I feel inadequate on this particular bike trip? It’s because for the first time, I was the least fit biker in the group. I really struggled the first day. My bike felt heavy and at times, it seemed like I’d never biked in my life before. In my head, I questioned whether I could bike for 5 more days, especially there were days scheduled that were twice the distance of the initial day. On a later day, when we were hill climbing, I gave up on a hill because it seemed too hard for me to do.
What is interesting is that my negativity was entirely self-imposed. My friends didn’t care at all that I was following behind. I didn’t slow them down. They didn’t even notice my internal struggle. It’s also interesting to me that the judgment was entirely self-directed. When others in my group walked up hills too, I didn’t judge them – just myself.
While it may be my feelings were rooted in competition, I think they went deeper than that. It seems to me that they were caused by years of internalized worry about what others’ think of me. Even though these days I am fairly confident in most aspects of my life, the residual feelings of inadequacy are insidious. That being said, if I take a step back, I know these feelings are solipsistic – in other words, I become overly concerned that those around me are paying attention to my inadequacies when the truth is that most of the time, no one else has even noticed. This is especially true while biking because my friends’ only focus was on pedaling and getting up the hills too. Furthermore, I believe these three things to be true:
(1) Everyone has their own issues and they too have internal negative voices at times
(2) My friends know and love me; I shouldn’t care what strangers think (most of the time I truly don’t)
(3) Someone has to be at the back of the pack.
The good news is most of the time, I don’t let my insecurity stop me from trying from new adventures and reveling in my accomplishments, however small. I must confess that I took comfort on the trip from the fact that every day I got a little bit stronger.
Life has a way of throwing us curveballs. My response to these experiences is to try to embrace every opportunity while I can. That won’t happen if I spend my time thinking I can’t do something I haven’t even tried, or perhaps worse, if I don’t do something I can just because I’m afraid someone will judge my skill or lack thereof. Life’s too short to live that way, so I’m working on silencing those pesky internal voices that try to tell me otherwise.
Susan Fullerton, a lawyer working for the government, lives in Toronto. She is an avid traveller who has had varying levels of fitness throughout her life. These days, she’s focused on being a reformed hoarder, trying to make better choices about how she spends her time and money.