There is nothing sweeter than the taste of success, and conversely one might say that failure is a bitter pill to swallow. Almost anybody who is alive and breathing has seen meme after meme extolling the virtue of succeeding via “getting up one more time than you fall down”, “never giving up”, blah, blah blah, blah blah… and while these virtues are completely and totally true, when I am in the midst of scraping myself up off of the floor, it is sometimes very difficult for me to keep my eye on the prize and not want to scream and rip and tear these stinking “susie sunshine platitudes” into shreds. After all, we are all chasing that elusive little sparkle called success. I have found that in the process of moving forward, I sometimes need to wallow in the feelings of a bruised ego, I have to feel embarrassed, and I have to doubt my ability to ever succeed. While these feelings are not very pleasant at the moment they hit me, I have to say this out loud: They are a normal part of the process of getting from failure to success.
For the past three weeks, I have been attending a Crossfit class, three days per week . This class is basically an introduction to Olympic Lifting, as well as to the intensity that has become associated with a Crossfit workout of the day or (WOD). I have no problem with the intensity, in fact, I LOVE IT! However, some of the Olympic lifts are giving me out and out terrors. There is one little lift that is absolutely kicking my ass. Yes, folks, my “snatch” sucks eggs. This lift involves pulling a barbell from the ground, and throwing it up over your head, locking out your arms, and dropping into a squat underneath the bar. Now, when practicing this lift for form with a piece of pvc pipe, it’s all sunshine and butterflies…. add the barbell, and my form goes to “H E Double Toothpicks”. In fact, when I tried this lift on my own at my gym the other day, I absolutely could not execute this lift with proper form.
Today in class, we worked on this lift. When it came time to add weight, although I was scared, I grabbed a lightweight barbell and gave it a whirl. I actually had slightly better results today than I did last week; however, when we were in the midst of an AMRAP (As Many Reps As Possible) workout, and the coach told me to put away the barbell and go with a pvc for the remainder of the workout, I have to admit that my ego took a serious lashing. I like to believe that I have my ego in check most of the time, but I have to admit that as I was swapping out the barbell for the lighter piece of pvc pipe, the color of humiliation and embarrassment was rising on my cheeks. Ouch. Was the coach right to do this? Absolutely! Was my form going to crap? Yes it was… Does that mean it didn’t sting? NO, I have to tell you that it stung plenty.
So, I pick myself up, dust off my bruised ego, and carry on. I almost left the gym without incurring further damage to my already deflated self esteem, when after the workout, the coach took me aside and said that he wanted to work with me on my lunge. One big thing that is emphasized in Crossfit and Olympic lifting, is external knee rotation. I don’t have it. I have never used it, and it is a constant challenge to remember to push my knees outward. I know that the coach is trying to help me, and he has a lot of good information and helpful advice, but today, I just felt spanked. I felt not good enough. I felt unsuccessful.
In the car on the way home, I found that I was berating myself. I should have done this. I shouldn’t have done that. I should have said this. I should have kept my mouth shut about that. I had just come from a good workout and a great learning experience, I should feel great. Yet, I was allowing myself to become lost and wallow in the negative. (Does it sound like I’m whining? Here is where this post is going to change…)
Sometimes, in order to get beyond the self doubt and self pity, I just have to allow myself to wallow for a short time. Eventually, the absurdity of my emotional response will creep into my awareness, and I somehow manage to shake it off and move forward. So, what do you think? Will I let this little emotional meltdown derail me? Will I go home and eat cookies and ice cream to soothe my battered ego? Will I decide that I’m not good enough and quit trying altogether? Absolutely not. Will I go back to the Crossfit gym on Monday with renewed energy and enthusiasm ready to give it one more try? Yes, I absolutely will.
Falling down is part of succeeding. There is no sweetness to a success if there is not a series of failed attempts and growing experiences that lead to that pinnacle. So, did I fail today? In some ways I did. I failed. I could not execute the movement as directed. However, here is the takeaway message from this day: I absolutely did succeed today. I felt the emotional let down of not achieving a goal, but I learned. I felt some shame and some embarrassment, but it will not stop me. I will use it as a tool to inspire me to learn. I will shake it off and I will try again. I am open to learning and I constantly strive to keep my ego in check and remain teachable.
I would love to hear from anybody who has suggestions on how to healthfully overcome negative emotions. This is the hardest part of my battle. Writing down my thoughts and feelings helps to take the “crazy” out of the dark recesses of my mind, and allows me to view my thought processes in the light of day. Admitting to you, and to my support group that my ego took a bashing, while it may not seem a prudent thing to do, completely took away the power of that negative emotion.
For me, this is not just a lesson for “Crossfit”, this is a lesson for life. As I prepare to enter the final week of this Crossfit class, I am choosing to focus on what I can learn, and as always, I will try to remember to check my ego at the door.