Posts Tagged ‘ fear ’

What is Success, Anyway?

Stuck in the oh-so-familiar low part of the derby loop again, I’ve been thinking about trying to escape it by resetting some expectations for myself in this sport. I’ve been thinking about people whom I admire, and about how they manage the feelings that seem to cripple me. I see them channel anxiety into focused, powerful action, and they soar. I’d always thought they just didn’t have the same fears, but in talking to them, I find instead that they use fear as fuel.

Much of the time, I feel like a giant fail in derby: I’m not fast enough (not as fast as anyone else on my team), not agile enough (ditto), I’m still not in the shape I should be in despite the training, and I’m still slow on the recovery. Sure, I’m a brick wall, and if I can trap a jammer she’s effectively stuck behind the width of two blockers — for a couple seconds, at least. And if my timing is right, I can take an offensive blocker out along with her jammer. But those moments don’t happen with nearly enough frequency for me; not as much as I expect, nor my teammates, probably. And when those moments aren’t happening, I feel like I’m letting a lot of people down. It sucks to feel like a failure at something you love and work so hard for, over and over. It’s hard to sit in that feeling and wait until it passes, to keep coming around to it after the high of each bout subsides.

But when I’m feeling good about derby and can let go of the worries, I really enjoy it. I approach bouts differently now than I used to: I’ve built new bout day rituals around boosting my confidence and focus instead of studying Xs and Os. I don’t review strategies or scenarios, or think about things I have trouble with, or worry about anything in particular. I pump myself up, prepare mind and body throughout the day or so beforehand, and try to revel in the energy of the bout from the start until the last long whistle. But my confidence always bottoms out the next day or so.

So back to #derbyfail. In the midst of my latest post-bout derbysuckfest, I’ve been thinking that I maybe should just accept that my perseverance with derby — in spite of the failures — is my success, in and of itself. I’m getting better, not worse. I’m not injured. I’m still having fun, on balance. I’m learning more every day about how to work with my team to accomplish things on the track, together. It’s a great motivator for my training, and it pushes me to constantly venture outside my comfort zone. I get dozens of positive things out of derby, and the negative things don’t outweigh them.

It’s not the head of the pack that I’m looking for; I just want to play, to be a part of things, contribute, stay in the mix, and have my share of moments. Moments other than skating as fast as I can just to stay in a paceline drill.

The last time I remember being in this position, it was Sophomore year of college and I was killing myself to try to raise a B- in Organic Chemistry. After a couple of semesters of banging my head against a heavy stack of Bio/Chem textbooks and lab paperwork, I dropped the double major and switched to art & theatre instead. Seriously. For the most part, lack of success has prompted a U-turn in my life. And that’s ok sometimes. I’m good at plenty of other things — but not derby, not science, not playing stringed instruments, and definitely not running or cycling or skating fast, ha.

But derby is just hard, for me at least. And I’m sure it is for everyone, in their own way. Even for those who don’t find it hard to stay in the middle of the pack have their own challenges, I know that. One of my teammates wrote recently about athletes recalibrating their idea of success, in a great post on sports psychology and academia. I guess I’m just still figuring out the recalibration part. But I haven’t taken that U-turn yet, and I need to take some comfort in that.


Something Completely Different: Just Do It

My recent posts have been driven by a certain rantiness related to body image and media messages about women’s bodies and shame: one that I could neither contain nor fully articulate. The feeling has been brewing for the last couple years, renewed every month when the new Women’s Health magazine landed in the mailbox. I could swear that it was once full of general healthy-living tips and recipes, and now it seems more an instruction manual on how to attract men. And it makes me want to retch and throw things every time I see it, because it’s really just Cosmo with the word health sprinkled throughout its pages. I continue to be frustrated by the failed promise of most health & wellness magazines/books/websites, wanting to buy something none seem to want to sell: positive messages about women’s health and fitness. I want the best of Runner’s World, Outdoors, Yoga Journal, Clean Eating, Blood and Thunder, and what Women’s Health used to be. But the ad-driven nature of the media industry makes that an impossible dream, I think.

Anyway :-/

When that Herbalife/McDonald’s image came out a few weeks ago, I lost my shit, seriously. I wanted to write about how body size/appearance and health don’t have that much to do with each other, about how we need to stop making assessments and assumptions about other peoples’ bodies, and about how the constant push of the BMI as a metric for health shames women rather than helping them; that it feeds into the same negative body image messages associated with visual media/advertising.

I admittedly ran off those rails; I’m not a health science writer, but I felt like I needed to make some reference to the arguments I was shorthanding. It’s hard to rale against these things without some specific criticism, which I didn’t take the time to make. Instead, I took a ride on the scope creep train and got lost in grumpyville. So this week, it’s back to the more familiar place of writing from feelings.


Heading into our league’s A/B team tryout process this week, I was fairly sanguine — at least about my expectations. I joked that I was treating it as a sort of workshop: a chance to practice and play at a higher level, to actually scrimmage, and to be seen. As a new girl (again, sigh.), I haven’t been seen much by coaches or other skaters, and that’s a disadvantage going into the home team drafts as well. I’m a transfer with some low-level bout experience, and was just starting to find my position in a pack when I moved. But I’m not fast, and my skills and the value I bring to a team aren’t necessarily noticeable right away. I know the game well, I study high-level play, and I see a lot, even if I can’t articulate it immediately. I’m generally more comfortable on skates than in shoes and I’m a hell of a wrecking ball when I connect, but I’m still battling 40 years of conditioning not to get in peoples’ way or knock them down. I’m still learning. I listen and follow instructions in practice, but struggle to act as quickly in the heat of a jam. But perhaps most importantly: I have waited many years to be ready to take on something this intense and demanding and fulfilling, and just being able to play — at all — is a challenge and a triumph and I take it very seriously. Fuck age and weight both, this is when I’m ready. Not when I was 25 and thinner, not when I was 35 and running more regularly, but now. It is what it is, and I’m done waiting in the wings.

Life is too short not to believe you’re worthy of every opportunity that comes your way — that’s the thought that passed through my head as my body cooled down and recovered from the first tryout session. Were there moments I doubted myself? Certainly, and that’s when I’d tell that little voice where to stick it. Again and again.

Move your feet, take a lap, look what you’re already doing — revel for a moment in what your body is capable of. Then get back out there, try things, don’t think. Just push a little more, and open up to whatever’s next.

I’d intended to hold off on posting until the whole tryout process was over, but I’m not that patient. I’m going to move forward regardless of where I end up, and that’s what matters, truly.

Silencing the Little Voice

More times than I can count during a roller derby practice, there’s a little voice that starts to pop up:

“wait, I can’t do that!”

“I can’t go that fast! they’re going really fast!”

“What if I can’t skate 25 laps right now?”

“I have to jump over that?! I can’t!”

“I’m kind of tired; I can’t do this”

“I’m not coordinated enough”

“I’m sort of stumbly right now”

“What if I won’t be able to keep up?”

“What if I’m the last one out there?”

None of those thoughts have  a chance of being fully expressed during practice, though. It’s sort of horrifying to read them, actually, because I don’t allow myself to really hear them when they come up. I know now that they’re the voice of self-doubt, of fear, of insecurity, and that voice brings nothing but poison darts. So I silence it, over and over again. I smack it away like an annoying mosquito that you can’t ever quite squish. I skate harder in order to silence it. I have to, because taking it all in would shut me down and chain me to that voice.

It’s important, I think, to recognize this voice for what it so often is — fear and anxiety — and to deny it the power that it seeks. That doesn’t mean ignoring all self-talk, but instead recognizing when that little voice is limiting, making you smaller,  and attempting to keep you from growing.

I could write about growth, but really I’m just still amused by how often those stupid little darts come flying at me in the middle of practice. You know, *while* I’m actually doing the things that it’s telling me that I can’t.