• Shelley Heavens

Sticks, Stones, Strings, and Deaf Frogs

As I sit down to write this, I am thinking about the power that words have in our lives.  If someone praises us, our troubles seem to fade away if even for just a while. If someone speaks negatively or judges us, we can carry the negative impact of their words for a lifetime. Sadly, our self-esteem is built largely on the opinion of other people. This is especially true in childhood, but adults are vulnerable, too. Years ago, while in elementary school, I was outside during recess with my classmates. The activity was skipping; Double Dutch in fact and I practiced so much when I was at home that I became pretty darn good. I was excited to show my friends and classmates my new found talent. One of the popular girls (mean girl) in my class made the mocking comment that I was too fat to skip, and that I looked ridiculous jumping. She giggled and laughed and soon they were all laughing. What may have seemed minor to others really impacted me in a way I can’t even begin to describe. It left me to compare myself to others for decades, and it cost me much social anxiety and depression.

Fast Forward 20+ Years

Years later, I still had to overcome this sense of inadequacy – which was also built upon many other destructive beliefs – before I could begin advocating for myself. My negative core belief that I “wasn’t good enough” followed me through my teens, 20’s, and 30’s.  I used food as an unhealthy coping strategy and as a friend to fill a void I could not see. You see, I have always wanted to run. It wasn’t until just recently, the last six years or so, that I worked on myself to break down those barriers to gather up the courage to start.  And when I did, I found something I had been missing all these years. Running gave me the gift of strength, self-confidence, and purpose. I blocked out the reminders of negative words that once ruminated in my head: That I was too fat. I wasn’t good enough. That I looked ridiculous and silly. When I ran, however, I felt free and strong! My mind was clear and I felt joy and gratitude for the things in my life and around me. I was able to process the day and reflect. The sky was bluer, the trees were greener and everything started to seem so much more crisp and vibrant.  Running gave me an outlet to LET GO…….

The Story of the Frog

Telling you all of this, I am reminded of a story I once read and I wanted to share with all of you. “Once upon a time there was a group of tiny frogs that challenged each other to a running competition. The goal was to reach the top of the very high tower in the race.  A big crowd gathered around the tower to watch the race and cheer on the contestants. The race began, but no one in the crowd really believed that these tiny frogs could reach the top of the tower. They shouted discouragements like: “Oh, WAY too difficult!!”, “They will NEVER make it to the top,” and “Not a chance will they succeed. The tower is too high!” The tiny frogs began collapsing one by one. However, there were a few, who got a second wind, and they were climbing higher and higher. The crowd continued to yell, “It is too difficult!! No one will make it!” More tiny frogs got tired and gave up. But ONE continued higher and higher and higher. This one wouldn’t give up!! In the end, everyone else has given up climbing the tower. Except for the one tiny frog which, after a big effort, was the only one to reach the top! All the other frogs wanted to know how the tiny WINNER managed to accomplish it. A contestant asked the tiny frog how he found the strength to succeed and reach his goal.  It turned out that the frog was DEAF!!!” (Edited for length and clarity) Moral of the story; Be deaf to other people’s negative words.

I Can DO This!

I didn’t simply overcome a long history of self-criticism on my own. Oh no! I was lucky enough to have my family, friends, and even a health provider who believed in me long before I believed in myself. I was the last to believe in myself, but now that I do, the sky is the limit!! Running has been such a gift in my life. It is a true feeling I can’t quite describe. It keeps my anxiety managed. Those who struggle with mental illness know that it can NEVER fully go away. That dark black cloud is always hovering close by, but when I use running as a tool in my life, it stays afar. I also truly believe that time and life experience can help people recover from mental illness. If nothing else, time gives us all a better perspective on ourselves and the world around us. I am now in my 40’s and I love me.  It took time to get to this point of my health journey. New practices, beliefs, and empowering skills still have to be practiced. Always…… Over and over and over. ……. Can You Change the Way You Think? Speaking of over and over and over, here’s another story I’d like to share. It’s something that I use in my own practice as a psychotherapist. A teacher takes a bit of lightweight thread and wraps it one time around a student’s wrists. He tells the class, “This string represents the power of doing something one time. Can you break the string?” The student easily breaks the thread with a small flick of his wrists. The teacher then wraps the string around the student’s wrists many times and repeats the challenge to break it. Despite repeated efforts, the lightweight thread is too strong to break.

Change Your View

By changing our thoughts and our mental images we can change our reality and our lifestyle. Creative visualization- see it, be it! This mental technique can help you attain the goals you set out for yourself. This works in our daily life as well, keep a picture in your mind of the person you want to be. Thoughts are very powerful. They create and mold our lives. Your personal thoughts travel to others which then can attract assistance.  This can help achieve what it is you would like to accomplish. Stay positive. Create mental pictures of yourself as having already achieved your goals. Just.Keep.Moving.Forward!!

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