Thursday, February 17, 2011

Cultivating Confidence-Jenifer's story

Flashback 1:
The sound of shoes squeaking. Looking down at the shiny gym floor, barely glimpsing two groups of small sneakers. Feeling the heart beat all the way to my fingertips. I’m 9 years old, and it’s time for PE – the worst time of the day for me. It’s another team day – dodge ball or basketball or even red rover. They all bring the same feeling of dread for me. I’m always one of the last picked. You see, I’m not popular. I’m not a girly girl. I’m not a tomboy that could be valuable on any one of these teams. I’m the quiet girl that loves math and books and hates P.E.

Flashback 2:
I’m in high school. I’ve found a little nitch in my small town world. I’m still the girl that loves math and books and hates P.E. I don’t even try anything athletic. I’m not so quiet anymore because I’ve forced myself to move past the shyness and interact socially. I’m academic. That’s my thing. I’m going to go get an education and “run IBM”. And, as many of my friends will remember, I was NEVER going to have kids.

So, here we are. It’s 2011, and I’m years from those flashbacks, but not from the memories. And, I’m old enough now to see how those memories created labels for me. And before you start thinking this is another Mean Girls story where I was teased and bullied (although I was called names and made fun of), it’s not. Those labels were self-imposed.

Because I was not given natural athletic ability, I labeled myself as unathletic. Sadly, this led to many years of me limiting myself. I didn’t allow myself to get involved in sports in high school, college or even afterwards. I missed out on that. But, I’m proud to say in the last year, I’ve gotten involved in and have truly started to love mixed martial arts. I don’t let myself say there is something I can’t do when I’m on the mat; I’m going to try everything. You want me to spar or grapple with a man that outweighs me by 50 pounds? Bring it on. Each time I walk out of class, I know I’ve overcome a limitation I placed on myself for years. I wear the resulting bruises with pride. Would I be honest if I said I still don’t hear the squeaking sound of the gym and feel my heart pounding through my body from time to time? I think you know the answer to that, but I don’t let myself quit or, even worse, not even try.

Here is another current day reality. I’m 22 weeks pregnant with my second baby, a little girl. I spent years pushing myself to unreasonable levels for my career. And, it turns out; the best job I’ve ever had is that of Mommy. Do I regret following my dreams and working hard for them? Not for a second. But, I’m so happy to realize now that I didn’t have to accept my self-imposed limitation that I couldn’t have both. And that I couldn’t define FOR MYSELF what success in each of those roles means for me. And, as I think about this little girl that I will get to meet in the not too distant future the one thing I want more than anything for her is a life without limitations – especially those she creates for herself.

Don’t accept NO for an answer – even if the voice is your own. “To thine own self be true.”

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