How To Catch Up When You Think You’re Behind
Field day was my favorite day of the year in elementary school. I’m sure I’m not alone in believing this. There was Valentine’s Day and the Christmas gift exchange, but field day! Nothing beat it.
I especially loved field day because I was the fastest girl in my class. I wasn’t tall enough to be good at tetherball and never did well at the broad jump, but I could run. I wasn’t “boy crazy,” but my friends would often ask me to chase and catch specific boys for them. This wasn’t without its hazards. I once reached out to catch a boy and grabbed the zipper on his windbreaker, getting the first and only zipper burn of my life.
Field day arrived and I signed up for every running event I could, sure I would win them all. When we lined up for the first race, I was on the inside lane, behind everyone else. I was shocked. This was so unfair! Why was I starting from behind? Why did they all get a head start?
I ran my heart out to catch up, passed runners on the curve and won the race. Only after it was over did I have a chance to ask why I started behind everyone else. I don’t know whether my grade school mind understood their answer, but I still remember that story when I’m watching track and field events. I’ve bored my family with it every four years during the Olympics.
I probably remember it because I still sometimes feel that way. Not about running races because, heaven knows, I don’t run anymore, but about life.
When you’re in the “races” in your life, do you ever feel like you’re starting from behind? Do you think the people “in front” of you have an unfair advantage? Do you fear everyone else has a head start on getting their lives together and making progress toward their goals?
Whether in your personal or professional life, it’s tempting to see others ahead of you on the track and wonder how you’ll ever catch up or whether you should even try. You’re afraid that even if you run as fast as you can, you’ll always be behind.
It’s time to stop being that young girl on the track, fearing you’re going to “lose” the race because you’re starting from behind. It’s time to realize your place in your race.
Let’s think about a couple of questions to see if we can gain some perspective and get ourselves out of the starting blocks and into the race.
First, are you really behind?
Just like on the track that day, sometimes we only think we’re starting from behind. We’re seeing things not as they are, but as they seem to us. We look at someone with a bigger house and assume their finances are way ahead of ours. They must have more money in the bank or bring home a bigger paycheck when neither of those things may be true.
If we’re creating a new business, we see someone with a large social media presence and fear we’ll never have that many followers or get that many likes. What we can’t see online, though, is how many people are actually buying from them or paying for their services. You might be ahead of them in terms of sales and not even know it.
The mentality that we’re behind can give us reasons to believe that we shouldn’t even start. We see others as too far in front so we’ll never catch up. Even though they may not be ahead of us, we decide it’s not worth it and stay stuck where we are.
The next time you’re on the starting line and see those people in front of you, realize the distance between them and you is not what it might appear. In fact, there may not be any distance at all.
Second, are you focusing on your finish line or someone else’s?
When you start a race, you know where your finish line is. You can’t always see it, as in a marathon, but you know the distance you’ll be running.
In life, our races aren’t like that. Sometimes we know exactly where we’re headed with a measurable goal (such as losing ten pounds), but more often we start running and think we know where we’re headed only to take an unexpected route.
We assume that the person in front of us is headed toward the same finish line as we are and that we’re both running the same direction for the same distance. How often is this true? Not often. Most of the time, the finish line we’re visualizing is nowhere near the finish line those around us are seeing.
This means the fear that someone is ahead of us is completely misplaced. Most likely, they aren’t even running in the same race toward the same place.
If you focus on their finish line, you lose sight of yours.
Focus on your finish line and you can adapt your strategy to fit your race.
And when you’re running your own race, no one can stop you, especially someone who’s not even going the same direction.
Whether you’re starting a new race or in the middle of your marathon, keep these two questions in mind as you evaluate your pace.
If you have bought into the idea that you are starting from behind, evaluate why you believe this. Does it come from a belief that other people have an unfair advantage and get preferential treatment? Do you feel this way because you view yourself as less competent and find reasons to justify this belief?
Maybe, unfortunately, someone has put their words of discouragement into your head and you still hear their voices. If a parent or other has pointed to others who are “successful” and negatively compared you to them, you may struggle to overcome those self-defeating thoughts. You may find it difficult to see yourself as competent to run any race, let alone the challenging race you’ve entered.
Those discouraging voices may also be pointing to other people’s finish lines and you’ve grown to believe that their race is yours. You are not, I repeat NOT, in the same race as anyone else.
Whether you’ve entered the 100 meter sprint or an ultra-marathon, believe that you are right where you’re supposed to be in your race. That finish line is your finish line. Don’t get distracted by someone else’s.
Let them run their race. You run yours..
And when you’re at sign ups for field day, enter every event you want.
Be the girl who believes she can win all the blue ribbons.
Be the girl who runs her heart out.