Have you heard of Active4Youth? It is an amazing running program for elementary aged children. Every year they do a cross country season where hundreds of kids practice, train, and work toward running a half mile (for first graders) or a whole mile (for 2-5th grade). There are two meets, and then an all-city meet at the end of the season.
This is a great program, encouraging healthy activities to children at a young age. My girls have loved it! Especially my first grader who got to participate this year for the first time.
Rewind to January when we sat around our dinner table, talking about New Year’s Resolutions. Each girl had a sheet with four squares on it. The instructions were to draw one picture per square of the goals they wanted to achieve this year. My first grader drew herself running, and said she wanted to do cross country.
So about a month before school started, I asked a high school runner down the street if she would “train” my daughter. I didn’t want anything seriously competitive, just some good tips on running, since the only kind of running I do is to the store or to the post office (. . . in our mini-van . . .).
Three times a week, the two went running in the morning, just for a half mile or so. My daughter loved it and always came back with a smile on her face.
School started, cross country began, and the running didn’t stop.
Of course, we wanted her to “win,” but really, we just wanted to see her glow with life and excitement as she showed us this gift she has. She’s a natural! We also wanted to see her satisfaction of doing something hard and not giving up. We were proud of all her work and dedication!
After the meets were over, on a Tuesday morning before school, Active4Youth came to the elementary school to give out awards to the runners. Every runner got a certificate. Those who beat their personal time got an extra something.
Then they announced they were going to award one runner from each grade and gender as the outstanding runner.
Well, you want to know what happened next? . . .
My heart started racing. My breathing became short. My senses heightened and I felt like I had laser-sharp hearing as I waited to hear who was chosen for the 1st grade outstanding girl runner.
This was a bit of my inner monologue:
“Oh! I hope they pick her! She’s worked so hard!”
“It’s not that big of a deal if they don’t. It’s just an award.”
“But it would be such a reward for all she’s done!”
“But the real reward is the satisfaction of accomplishment.”
“Oh just go on and say her name! Just say it!”
“Please let it be her!”
“Pick her! Pick her!”
Then suddenly, I had multiple flashbacks to my younger days when I had participated in the spelling bee or submitted artwork for a class competition or when the school gave out the outstanding student award. I was feeling that exact same way—heart racing, short breathing, and laser-sharp hearing. Well you know what? No matter how much I pled inside, I never won a spelling bee, never got picked for my artwork, and never got chosen for the outstanding student award.
So here I was, rooting for my daughter to get chosen, experiencing the same anticipation and anxiety as if I was on the ballot as well. For a moment, I even hoped they might call my name!
They read the name. And nope, it wasn’t mine LOL, or my daughter’s. Of course, she was disappointed, but I think I was more disappointed than her!
It kind of haunted me throughout the day how much anxiety I had felt waiting up to that moment.
PROBLEM: I experienced anxiety over wanting to get chosen for an award, but it wasn’t even my competition in the first place!
What was wrong with me?
Nothing. Nothing was wrong with me. This is how we are. Our emotions tell us in uncomfortable ways things that we need to do—so I decided to find out what my emotions were telling me.
I thought about the anxiety and fear of not getting picked.
Yeah. That’s scary. That means: “You’re not good enough. You didn’t cut it. Nice try, but someone else is better than you.”
And that doesn’t feel good. I don’t want to feel that way. I want the validation from others that “YES! YOU ARE AMAZING!”
For some reason, I felt like winning the spelling bee or the art competition or the student award or the cross country outstanding runner award would tell me that.
Just to let you in on a little secret, I’ve been stewing over this experience for two weeks now! I am finally now ready to explore what the fear was trying to tell me.
So now I ask myself fear’s questions to discover what action I am to take. “What are my options? What are my choices?”
I saw my choices—like a forked path: one path leading to validation from other people (through awards and medals) but never quite leaving me with the long-lasting reassurance that I’m looking for, and the other path leading to putting my energy and focus on knowing that I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing right now, I’m becoming who I’m supposed to become, and I’m doing what God is leading me to do.
I’m choosing that path. And I feel better already.
SOLUTION: I recognized the fear communicating to me, I looked at my choices, and I chose a better path than I was on.
It’s not every day I’m up for an award (or my kids are), but I do know that I can apply this new knowledge in other areas of my life as well. Sometimes I get a little anxious when I think about how many followers I have. It’s not very many! (But ♥♥ to all you faithful ones.) Sometimes I worry, “How can I share the things I know if no one is reading what I write?” Once again, I can return to that path of knowing that writing these words is what God wants me to do, and whether one or one hundred people read them, it doesn’t matter. At least I’m being obedient to The One who knows what’s best for me.
And I can be okay with that.
What things are you doing that bring you anxiety, worry, or fear? What are the options and choices before you? What can you choose to find a deeper confidence than what other’s can give?
Tell me about it!