I’ve have many proud moments in my life, but one most recently that stands out…on cold dark January evening this year, I was on the phone with none other than the infamous, Matt Fitzgerald (if you don’t know who that is-give it a Google-he won’t disappoint), when he exclaimed, “Marisa, you’ve got some Big Kahunas…and I like that”.
This is all PG rated, but I’ve got some explaining to do.
I’m now shouting this out the vast depths of the interweb. I intend to try to run my Personal Best or Personal Record Half Marathon this year, at the interesting age of 45-turning 46. Essentially what this means, is that I have to run thirteen and a tenth miles at a 6:20 per mile pace. Project Personal Record 2023 or PRP23. With one GIANT caveat: only within the containment of a healthy mind and a healthy emotional body. This is what Matt was referring to: Bold. Big. But, why?
The Why is juicy. The nicely packaged and eloquent answer (also truthful) is that I love challenge and mastery. Gone are the days of wanting to win, now are the days of loving the spirit of sport and mastery. It’s the challenge or the stretch that I crave-not the win. The less glamorous and edgy part of that answer is that I’m also trying to exorcise an old familiar demon: Perfectionism. It still from time to time seems to have its claws in me.
So why not give it a good dose of going big. I will do my very best to run thirteen miles at that razor’s edge of suffering, while enjoying the squish of a kinder, softer self-talk than ever before. This is a challenge.
Let me unpack the concept of Perfectionism and why it’s not friendly. Often, I meet with clients/athletes that relate to this, and it’s no surprise that Perfectionism runs deep in the veins of endurance athletes. It’s a large part of what makes us unique in our quest to suffer at 4:30 am on a Sunday morning while the rest of the world enjoys sleep, mellow jazz, and cinnamon rolls. Perfectionism MUST be differentiated from Work Ethic though. Perfectionism, I have found, can be the biggest driver of sabotage, joy-sucking, misery, and perpetual unhappiness.
Some athletes I council will easily say they relate to the Perfectionism description, but some others need to be a bit more convinced. It’s not about what you look like on the outside but rather and this is the big part, it’s the narrative that runs the show on the inside. It’s the “never good enough” story. It’s the “comparison to others” story. (Strava?) It’s the “fear of failure-so why risk story”. It’s the “can’t relax until it’s all done” story. Perfectionism has MANY voices and stories.
One can ascribe to being a dirtbag ultra runner, cyclist, van-living endurance athlete all the while having a Perfectionism template running the show. It’s not the outside-but the inside driver.
Perfectionism is driven primarily by internal pressures, such as the desire to avoid failure or harsh judgement. Perfectionism is a wonky belief system that we actually can achieve perfection in something we set our mind to. This is faulty because perfection never exists in anything so it’s a perpetual way to never be good enough.
Having a strong Work Ethic can have similar traits or could feel similar-the striving for greatness. The difference however is the self value put on achievement or the lack thereof. Here’s a quick way to know the difference, ask the question (and notice the reaction), “Can I just do my best?”. “If I do my very best, can I be okay with any outcome?”.
Having a Strong Work Ethic is about the love of the process, Perfectionism is the disregard of process and an over- emphasis on the outcome, only.
Naturally then it’s easy to see why athletes struggle with this.
This comes right off my website-some of the many variations of Perfectionism:
How much money you make.
How thin you are.
What your life place is currently (i.e-right job, partner, homeowner etc.)
How good at “Momming-it” you are.
How many friends you have.
How good at your job or school you are.
How many miles you ran this week.
How many people like you.
How good you are at yoga or meditation or even wellness (I see this often)
Back to my PRP23…I’m in the throes of trying to be more and more in process than outcome. I will do everything I can, assuming I’m enjoying it, which is typically my barometer of mental health, to run my Personal Record half marathon this year. It may happen, it may not. I purposely chose something that was a stretch, running fast again as I age. It requires some pieces of precision: workouts, timing of workouts, adequate recovery, eating well and enough, and alas, some changing female hormones that I thought would never catch up to me. But does not require me to hedge my self worth on the outcome. What better way to out that nasty Perfection than to take it head on.
Is there a voice of Perfection in your life?….