Who Do You Think You Are?

I am the 8 year old who enjoyed swimming but refused to climb the monkey bars; who also loved learning and helping older kids in her school with their reading.

I am the 17 year old who once liked the idea of being Murphy Brown but found herself in a pattern of skipping classes and spending more time at her part-time job.

I am the 11 year old girl who detoured on her gym class run because she’d rather sneak a smoke than show up and play baseball with the rest of the class in the unflattering gym uniform.

11 Year Old Nicole with a pink “Ocean Pacific” long sleeve shirt on, jeans with a blue bandana belt, large-framed eye glasses, wavy brown, shoulder length hair.

I am the 27 year old woman with a hodge podge of formal education, but quick understanding and the work ethic of someone already working for 15 years.

I am the 15 year old who enjoyed the aerobics portion of gym, but felt clumsy in volleyball and other team sports.

I am the 24 year old choosing a career over finishing her degree. Yet again, choosing comfort zone over uncertainty, loneliness and a meager grocery allowance.

I am also the 31 year old who discovered she is a runner. And the 32 year old who realized she could run 21.1 km, on her way to running a full marathon.

Nicole finishing her first full marathon on September 30, 2007 at the Toronto Waterfront Marathon.

I am the mid-life law clerk with just enough positive feedback and encouragement and respect. Who took a chance and changed careers a couple times, to learn new things and hopefully find something to be passionate about. Well, passionate about besides cooking and fitness, which never felt like careers, but pastimes.

I am the 30-something single woman with deep feelings of inadequacy, finding community and self-acceptance through small studio gym workouts. Trusting that her body is strong and meant for strong work.

How do our own internal biases about ourselves affect us in our daily lives? Cate wrote about our saboteurs in this post (which also links my first Guest Post on FIFI about Imposter Syndrome).

We are shaped by our experiences. It makes sense that our brains take the easiest route to established experiences when encountering a given situation. How do we retrain some of those processes so that they take a chance on a different way of thinking, and perhaps a new experience?

I mean, the thing is, our brains lie to us sometimes too. I know enough at this point of my life, to know that every thought I have is not a true thought.

My own biases directed towards myself, stop me from attempting pull-ups, even though I have the upper body strength, trying handstands or doing step-ups from high places. But I don’t let those biases prevent me from giving it my all in other areas where I benefit (heavy lifting, challenging my cardio intensity, mingling with younger, more agile bodies in these settings).

In my career, I still struggle with deeply rooted feelings of inadequacy. And an inability to figure out how to get “unstuck”. Despite trying different things, putting myself out there, raising my voice more often when it feels uncomfortable, I often still feel like I am not living my full potential in my career and it’s mostly my fault. According to my brain’s learned patterns, it is my fault that work experience is not equal to education and I am not committed enough to work on the education part more. My brain tells me it is my fault that I’ve never been able to decide where I really wanted to focus on in my education, and therefore, not committing to anything to excel in. It is my fault that when I do get a chance to delve into something, contribute more, I always seem to hit a ceiling that feels related to my “position” and that I don’t really know what to do about it.

The difference between my biases in both areas is that with fitness, my positive experiences and biases prevent my negative ones from overshadowing them. Whereas, the biases in my career are not counterbalanced. But, I am always looking for ways to grow and move in a better direction.

I am also aware that because of my circumstances, being middle class in a comfortable environment, geographically, and closer to home, and also (although not by choice) because I don’t have kids, I have the luxury of being present enough in my life to ponder these things. I do not take this for granted.

At 48 I can’t help but think “what do I want to devote my mental energy to?” Where can my talents be best served? Do I have talents that I can use and feel fulfilled and useful? Why do I care about feeling fulfilled?? Why can’t it be solved with a great jog and some powerful pike push-ups?

How do you deal with your own biases about yourself? Have you learned ways of redirecting your brain away from biases that don’t help you?

Nicole P. is trying to get outside as much as possible this summer.

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