I have a confession to make. For years, I’ve been fairly self-conscience about my facial hair (or I should say lack thereof). See, I’m one of those guys who can’t grow a beard, but can show the shadow of a mustache a few hours after shaving. For as long as it has grown, it’s been an annoyance in my life. Why? I’m not sure, but the annoyance has done nothing but grown. Pun intended.
Over the course of the last year, I’ve committed myself to this thing called happiness. Reading The Happiness Project started me on this track, and I’ve strategically begun to tackle issues that make me unhappy or provide frustration in my life. Shout out to my friends at Phired Up Productions who brought the subject back to my attention with their recent book as well as witnessing a speech by Marc Elliot at a recent conference that covered his battle with Tourette’s Syndrome. So far, it’s been a liberating experience. Life’s too short, right?
A few examples: (prepare for some honest reflections)
- My wife and I “tried” having a child for much longer than we hoped for. It got to the point where we strategically made a decision that we needed to make a few changes. We both had the increasing desire to move back home to Iowa and were convinced that if we did so, a little one would come. Tillie took a new job in Iowa, and my employer was gracious enough to allow me to take a new role and work remotely. Two months upon moving home, little Calvin was conceived.
- In Ohio, the two of us spent an hour and a half each day in the car commuting to work. While the commute began as a great way to ease into the work day and out of the work day, it eventually became a task – An expensive and time-consuming task. I did the math, two people driving an hour and a half, five days a week, equated to 15 hours a week, 60 hours a month and 720 hours a year. Collectively, 30 days of our year and nearly $5,000 of our income were spent in and on the car. Today, Tillie drives 5 minutes to work and I work from home. For the first time in a long time, the date on my oil change reminder sticker came before the mileage. This “extra” time has translated into more sleep, more exercise and more time to spend the way we want to spend it.
- I’ve wanted to start my own business since 2006. For the longest time, I doubted my abilities and feared the unknown that comes along with doing so. This past year, I took the leap and have never felt so confident in the work that I’m doing with GrassrootGive.
So, back to this mustache thing. I’ll get to how this relates to running and my project soon! A few weeks back, I got fed up and decided to tackle this self-consciousness and embrace the genes that I have been given. So I decided to grow what my body grows best, a fu manchu.
Now, it’d be easy for me to grow this ridiculous thing and then stay in the house. This wasn’t acceptable in my eyes. I needed to grow it and put myself in situations to get weird looks, funny comments and train myself to embrace it.
So I grew it, went in public, and posted a picture for my Facebook friends to see and comment on. Have I gotten funny looks? Yes, absolutely. Have I worried about what people were thinking of me? Yes, I have. Have I wondered if people thought I was “unprofesional”? Um, yes. Did I get nervous about posting the photo to Facebook? Yes, it took me 10 minutes to hit the post button. Have I stayed away from the park two lots down that is constantly filled with children? Yes, for obvious reasons. But amongst all of this, a funny thing has happened – I’ve embraced how ridiculous this look is and have put this self-consciousness in the past. Will I keep it for good? Hell no, it itches.
This little experiment has also made me realize what it must feel like for those who get judged on a daily basis by how they look, their beliefs, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, etc. Judging people sucks, but I truly didn’t understand this until I put myself in a position to get judged, even if it was something as little as facial hair.
So how does this relate to running and my project? At first, I didn’t think it did, but I started to put the pieces together. Running can be a very vulnerable thing for some people. Is my form making people look at me weird when they drive by? Would I feel more confident running in public a few pounds lighter? Do I have what it takes to run a marathon? How am I going to handle the anxiety when I step up to the start line and attempt to run this race? Understanding these vulnerabilities and putting yourself in the position to answer these questions is the only way you can tackle it. So if you’re reading this blog with some insecurities about running and putting pictures of yourself during a run out there to the public, I understand, but want to provide this venue for you to tackle these insecurities and become vulnerable.
The other parallel I’ve found is that many people feel very vulnerable when they thank others. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m awful at accepting favors, good deeds or gifts. I consider myself independent and like to do things on my own. I’ve had to learn to graciously accept advice, mentorship, favors and kindness from others that is done with no intention of receiving anything in return. Standing in front of a camera during runs and thanking others who have supported me has been liberating. It is quite the feeling and has shown me the power of a simple thank you. If you’re in this same boat, join my project and publically thank those who are important to you. It’s awesome!
I plan to keep tackling any frustrations and unhappiness in my life. It’s proved to be life changing.
I’ll leave with this. I challenge you to become vulnerable and comment on this post explaining one of your insecurities and how you attempt to tackle it. Who knows, maybe it will be the spark needed to get going.