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One time I made a joke on the Internet—which was probably my first mistake—about how I shared a marathon goal time with a popular retired runner. I was excited. I’d been training hard. I was fit. I was also, evidently, not self-deprecating enough. Soon, I was bombarded with accusations of “humble bragging” and barbed remarks. I thought I was just so great, didn’t I?
To be clear, I don’t and I’m not. But so what if you do think you’re capable of something special, whatever that is to you? We all have our own goals and experiences, our own super-secret, reach-for-the-sky possibilities for greatness. Who is anyone else to tell you you’re not great? We have a tendency, as a society, to demand self-hatred from each other—and especially from women. If you don’t hate your nose or your thighs or your stomach, you must be an arrogant jerk. If you don’t have something to contribute to the “I’m so fat; I’ll never be as fast, as skinny, as pretty as someone else” chatter that still fills locker rooms, then you can quickly find yourself on the outside of the discussion.
We learn, then, to joke about hating our bodies, about being slow. We play down what we’re capable of. “I just did a 5K.” We make fun of ourselves before anyone else can. Until, eventually, we believe our own jokes. It’s time to stop it. Stop it with all this nonsense.
We should know better. We’re triathletes after all. We demand big things from our bodies and put them through a lot. So let’s give them a break every now and then. I would never talk bad about my bike, and it can’t even hear me.
Sure, no one wants to be the guy who doesn’t shut up about how amazing he is. Yes, some triathletes could use a dose of actual humility. And unless someone asks or they’re your mom, they probably don’t want to hear all the exacting details of your workouts either. But there’s a big difference between actually being a jerk with a capital J and thinking someone is simply because they’re OK with themselves.
None of us are perfect, not even the people who look like it. And there’s nothing wrong with that. What is wrong is when we demand a public accounting of each other’s flaws as a kind of requirement for societal acceptance. We have to stop doing this to each other so that we can stop doing it to ourselves.
The next time someone expects you to participate in self-shaming—what do you hate about yourself?—instead, say it loud, say it proud: “I’m all right actually and so are you.”