Confidence is Key

Benjamin Franklin once said, “You can do anything you set your mind to.” Napoleon Bonaparte said the word “impossible” wasn’t in his dictionary. Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”
Inspiring words, aren’t they? But how many people really think they can do anything? I’m going to take a stab at it and guess zero. So are these words nothing but a false promise? And if not, then what are we all missing?
Confidence; if you don’t have it, you can’t do it.
Reflecting on the past few weeks I realize I have a lot of catching up to do, and so many things to write about. But if there’s one thing that sums up the lessons I’ve been learning lately, it’s that confidence is key.
At the beginning of the month I made my indoor track debut with a 3000m in Seattle: home of Oiselle HQ. I was a little nervous, as usual before any “first race,” but thankfully Oiselle had some fun activities for us which kept our minds preoccupied.
My first lesson in confidencecame from the team photoshoot we participated in along with the other Oiselle runners from “Project Little Wing.” I’d never done one before, and couldn’t even remember posing in front of a white screen since I was a toddler (Even my Prom and Senior pictures were taken in my front yard!). Naturally, I was a little anxious about it, and as I watched the other girls go before me I wondered how I would ever know if I was making the right face or pose without being able to see myself. Once I accepted that this wasn’t a posed “selfie,” I realized there was only one thing I could do: act confident.
When you act confident, you can have more fun! Modeling beside Lauren Fleshman, (who I formerly only knew as the girl on a poster on my wall) was a lot less nerve-racking when I decided to just act confident and have fun with it all. It ended up being an awesome experience, and I loved how we were able to just be ourselves, dance around, and have fun with it. On top of that, I was pleased to learn that Oiselle uses all un-touched photos for their website. Nowadays the media’s portrayal of beauty is all a fake, photo-shopped world. To be confident also means being comfortable with your body and not trying to be someone you’re not. Lauren Fleshman actually wrote a great article (Read it here) on the impact social media has had on how we view beauty. She even challenges you to post an unflattering, un-edited photo to twitter with #keeping it real

Lesson two came when I went with the whole Oiselle HQ crew to do yoga at Jasyoga. Erin, our instructor, led us through a series of relaxing poses while telling us to focus our thoughts on one of our goals. When you think about that goal, she said to focus on the feeling you will have when you achieve that goal. For me, that feeling is confidence. I came out of yoga feeling refreshed and ready for my race, and the next day I carried that confidence with me right onto the starting line.
From the moment the gun went off to when I crossed the finish line in a 10+ second PR, I just kept focused on that calm, confident feeling. It was such an awesome experience getting to race in front of so many Oiselle super-fans. They made me feel as if they were a special part of my own team. That showed me something else about confidence: it often comes from those around you. I can’t emphasize how important it is to surround yourself with caring and supporting people in your life. No matter what your goals or dreams are, find the people who believe in you and pay no attention to the ones who say you “can’t.”
My dad always used to tell me that can’t isn’t a word. It might be the best advice I’ve ever heard, yet I hated when he would say that. As I said in the beginning, no one actually believes they can always do everything, right? The week following Seattle I certainly didn’t.

I returned to New Jersey expecting to go back to work and get caught up on real life. Instead, “real life” hit me in the face like a cold-hard snowball. After being gone a month-and-a-half my car battery was dead, not to mention it was snowed in and the roads weren’t plowed. I was unable to get any hours in at work, let alone get anywhere. There I was, without a running car, running out of money, running on the dreaded treadmill and surviving on canned foods. I broke down. I called my dad. I cried. But worst of all, I used the dreaded word that apparently isn’t a word; can’t. Until now I’d been so fortunate and my past few weeks in Texas were a worry free runner’s heaven. But suddenly everything seemed to be going wrong, and I told my dad, “I can’t deal with all of this.” He didn’t take that well, and kept the conversation very “matter-of-fact.” I was angry, unhappy, and especially concerned since that was minutes before I had to leave for my next race in Boston.

Luckily, I’m not the kind of person to dwell on an emotion. After the four-hour drive to Boston I put my complaints behind me and regained confidence and focus for my race. I wasn’t expecting it to be a huge race. Having Kate Grace as our pacer, and teammates Lauren Penney, Nichole Schappert and Ashley Higginson beside me on the starting line made it feel just like a practice. The gun went off and I positioned myself comfortably behind Kate and before I knew it we were over halfway done and she stepped off the track as I took the lead. Those last few laps, all I was thinking was, “just don’t slow down!” Then when I saw there were only 2 laps to go I almost didn’t believe my eyes. It wasn’t that I actually miscounted, I just felt so comfortable I couldn’t believe there were only 400m left. As I crossed the line in 4:26 I once again didn’t believe my eyes. I knew I was fit, but there’s nothing like the gratification of seeing all of your hard work pay off big time. All of the sudden things went from “falling apart” to “falling into place,” in just under 4-and-a-half minutes.

It’s funny how quickly your perspective can change in a matter of minutes or days. Just after my big PR in Boston I received the news that one of my high school cross country teammates had died after being hit by a car while simply walking across the street. I couldn’t believe it. Such a tragic reminder that life is short so you have to make the most of everyday. (James 4:14 “Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”) As I returned to N.J. filled with confidence from my race, I was also stressed about issues that a few days ago seemed, “too big to tackle.” But as I thought about life and how short it really can be, I felt foolish for ever complaining, for ever telling myself, “I can’t” in the first place. 

That’s when I started thinking about the verse Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” When you study this verse in context, you’ll find that Paul was teaching us that we can have confidence in Christ no matter what the situation. Confidence, not in our own power, or that we can do anything we want, but rather, confidence in Christ that we can always be content. Philippians 4:12 reads, I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”

Confidence doesn’t come from always winning, having the most wealth or being perfect. No one is perfect, only God is perfect. When we put our confidence in him, then we (God+us) can do anything. This kind of confidence is faith.

A week after Boston I ran the Mile at the Millrose Games. Unfortunately, it didn’t go at all as planned. If there’s one place where the word “can’t” should be allowed, it’s in the age-old saying, “You can’t change the past.” That being said, life is short, and you CAN change your future. Now I’m looking ahead to this weekend’s USA Indoor Championships. I know where my confidence lies and I’m so thankful for another big racing opportunity. As always, I run for Christ #irun4Christ 

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