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2016 will go down as the year that I grew a thick skin. Maybe that’s not an original way to think about things, but the time-tested adage remains true from the great Taylor Swift: Sometimes you have to “Shake it off, sha-sha shake it off” (and having a thick skin helps tremendously with all that shaking). In summary, 2016 was a great year during which I grew a lot, both inside and out, learned to shake shake, and also learned a new trick to slap down the negative voices in my head (the inner mean girl).
At my “A race” triathlon last year, I was trucking along on the run with about 7.5 miles to go, when I just fell down—crash. I landed on both knees, and I had no idea how I ended up there. I picked myself up after a quick spell, but not before I said (in my head), “You are so stupid, how could you fall like that?” I continued to berate myself that way for a half of the street block before I realized that type of talk was going to get me to the finish line much more slowly than being positive and moving forward.
Henry Ford has been quoted as saying, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t—you’re right.” The single most powerful positive and powerful thing I learned last year started with dealing with voices between my ears, especially the internal (and sometimes external) mean-girl voice. Oftentimes, I am the very culprit of my own negative space or feelings, and I have learned that snapping out of that headspace, and learning how to do it quickly, has been an amazing lifeline for me. (And when others say negative things? That’s when you shake shake, for the record. You don’t shake shake for yourself.)
Regardless, I ask myself three things when I feel the mean girl knocking at my cranium: 1) Is this actually a fact? 2) What IS true about this current moment? 3) How can I move forward?
In the instance where I fell down: “Is it actually true that I am stupid and made myself fall down?”
No. I just fell down.
“What IS true about falling down at a race?” Well, I am running a half-marathon in a half-Ironman triathlon, and I am amazing. Who cares if I fell?
Finally, “How can I move forward after falling?” I can put one foot in front of the other, just like I was doing before I bit the dust. Let’s go.
So I did just that. I quieted the mean girl with the facts and moved forward to my sixth half-iron-distance triathlon finish, and that was it. Sure, this little trick may not always work, but I have yet to encounter a mean-girl thought that it didn’t immediately quash (or at least injure a little to the point where she was quiet).
Meredith Atwood is a wife, mom, attorney, Ironman, coach and author of Triathlon for the Every Woman. She lives in Atlanta and blogs at SwimBikeMom.com. Find “Beginner’s Luck” every Monday on Triathlete.com.