Here's a short story about accepting praise and positivity.
I don't know about you, but I am not one for false compliments. I don't go crazy giving them, and I don't go looking for them. With that said, I AM extremely appreciative of things in my life, I express my gratitude towards others and I focus on the positive. But my tendency is to feel like I have to truly earn or be deserving of any praise. I don't think I am alone on this. There are many times that I may tell someone they look great today, only for them to list all the things they don't think are great about themselves: "Oh, my hair is a MESS today" or something like that.
Today I got a chance to practice accepting praise on false pretenses. And it felt great.
This morning I went for a run on a popular public paved trail...
It turned out there was a race on that trail; an out and back half marathon... The parking lot I used was the turnaround point for the race. It's no problem to share the course on a race like this so I started running at what was mile 8 for the course, heading back towards their finish. I was meeting all the runners who were still heading out to their turn-around point behind me.
My goal for the run was to increase my speed on a 5K, so after 5 minutes of an easy pace I took off at a pretty good clip. A couple of guys zipped past me. I met lots of other runners heading out and they all were very friendly; giving me thumbs up, big smiles and saying: "Great job!" and "you go!!!!"
Wow, I thought, what an especially nice group! The races I have done in the past are always marked by a feeling of mutual support and comaraderie among the athletes, but this seemed extra special. Maybe this run was organized by the Especially Friendly Runners Association Of Gainesville or something.
I smiled and waved to them but really I was so busy huffing and puffing and concentrating on keeping my speed up, that I didn't really respond.
After a few more: "Way to go's!" and "Awesomes!" One group of women said: "First female!! You got this!!!"
That's when i realized I had joined the course in a way that made it seem like I was in the lead among women.... Woops!
Crazy what can go on in one's head. I felt like a fraud! Don't praise me! I am nothing! I am not in the lead! Don't you see I don't have a race number on? Oh my gosh, will they think I am cheating? OK, I didn't really believe those thoughts completely, but I think you know what I mean.
I decided to just soak in the positivity... I ran tall and ran proud. People who said nice things got a big grin from me and a 'Thank you!'. I resisted the temptation to explain: 'Oh, I'm not in the race'. Maybe I was inspiring to them and I didn't want to take that away!
Because you know what? I WAS doing a great job! I WAS feeling pretty darn awesome... I was out there with my body, my self, and my brain and I decided to go ahead and leave my brain and all it's stupid thoughts behind, so I WAS in the lead. I was winning the race we all have to win: The race against all the thoughts that hold us back or tell us we're not worthy, or tell us we're not 'there' yet...
Why should I think for even one second that I didn't deserve to hear and accept people praising my effort?... Race or no race, I was out there pushing myself, pushing through personal limits, actively expanding what is in my range of what is possible... Just like they were.
Showing up counts. Doing your best counts. We shouldn't need to apologize for praising that, or for accepting praise for that.
I later passed the group of women who had said: 'First Female!!!" I had turned around, and so had they. As we passed each other for this second time I could see they recognized me, and their error. One turned to the other and I heard her say: "Oh, she's just out for a run".
It's amazing how much can change in the 1.6 miles since I last passed them. By this time I was fully owning my power and feeling so grateful for her error. I was thinking how much better my run was by hearing all that support. It brought to my awareness just how measured we can be in giving each other praise and support, or how conditional it can be. I was hoping this didn't make her withhold future support for someone. "I would say good job, but I need to make sure you really deserve it before I do'. Yuck.
What's my point? Well, I still think authenticity is everything. We don't need to go around making things up just to find something nice to say... But maybe the key is to help each other feel good about ourselves when we make the effort to show up. Let people inspire you for no reason at all. Let people be inspired by you without putting yourself down. Accept praise. Accept support.
What is it we say with horses? 'Reward the slightest try'
The bottom line is the motivation worked. This was supposed to be a run to get my baseline speed so I can then plot my progress on my way to my new target pace. When I hit stop on my Garmin it told me that my average pace was exactly the pace that was supposed to be my 1 month goal.
Oops. I accidentally did better than I planned. Maybe that had something to do with allowing myself to feel like a winner.
And, because everything comes back to horsemanship: How can you help your horse feel like a winner so he can surprise you with his abilities?
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Karen Rohlf, author and creator of the Dressage Naturally program, is an internationally recognized clinician who is changing the equestrian educational paradigm. She is well known for doing dressage with a priority of partnership, her student-empowering approach to teaching, her virtual courses, and her positive and balanced point of view.
photo of Karen Rohlf by Dana Rasmussen