Since kicking off my training for the 2013 Sydney Half Marathon, I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon.
I’m going to call it the ‘Haters Gonna Hate’ phenomenon.
Essentially, what I’ve noticed is that human beings don’t particularly enjoy the sight of other human beings striving for, or even achieving success. Despite the fact that I am redder than the most super of super tomatoes when I run, and clearly struggling for gasps of air, all many fellow pedestrians see is “She’s doing something to better herself. This makes me feel bad about myself. Ergo, she must be stopped”.
If we leave out the incompetent motorists for a moment (and, trust me, my suburb has them in droves), the biggest obstacle I encounter on my runs is the bitter pedestrian.
The bitter pedestrian will do two things:
- Make no effort to step aside or make room for you to pass, and
- Scowl at you as if you’d just kicked them in the shin on the way through.
I’ve said it before, but the ‘Top 30 Countdown‘ is the best thing I’ve done for myself in a very long time. Health benefits aside, the positive psychological benefits are immense. I feel happy, I feel proud of myself. I have gained perspective on life and what is truly important to me.
Most importantly, I’ve had a bucket-list-load of fun this year that I may not have otherwise had.
For some reason, all of this positivity does not always have the flow-on effect I’d love it to have. In fact, it often downright depresses others who feel powerless to create similar levels of excitement in their own lives. The sight of me running (albeit slowly and a little uncoordinated-ly) inspires feelings of guilt in others that are translated into resentment and fired right back. At the same time, discussions with others about “what I’ve been up to lately” can inspire insidious comments and negativity, which I might compare to being perpetually labelled as a “nerd” at high school for bothering to put in effort and, God forbid, enjoying it.
I think that this is a real shame, although I understand the reasons behind it completely. I have been known to become consumed with jealousy at the achievements of others. I have one friend in particular who inspires that feeling in me more often than not, although, thankfully, it’s never gotten to the point where the jealousy has been translated into resentment. We all have that one friend and, although I’m not going to name her right now, I will provide you with a list of some of the reasons why she makes me feel jealous:
- She’s always traveling to exotic places and doing exciting things…
- She can pull off short-cropped hair and still look amazing…
- She is super fit…
- She seems to be able to master any activity in the shortest possible time, whether it be contorting into the kind of yoga pose that would make a guru gasp, surfin’ Baha Cal-i-for-nigh-ay, or holding herself steady at a 90 degree angle to a stripper pole…
- (Do you know who you are yet?)
- Finally… she just bought an acre block of land in El Salvador – WHO DOES THAT?!
Yes, I am jealous. I’m green with envy. At a different stage of my life that jealousy might’ve made me a bit depressed about my own life. Right now, it just makes me super excited for her, and has maybe inspired me to push my own boundaries just that little bit further.
After all, there is only one thing standing in the way of me achieving all of those things myself. It’s not money, it’s not even a lack of basic coordination.
I already travel quite a lot, so if I choose to go to Paris instead of Manila, that’s really on me. If I choose to go to Morocco, but opt for the guided tour rather than the backpacker experience, that’s on me too.
I’ve always wanted to shave my head. I don’t know why, I guess I just feel like it would be liberating and I’m kinda curious to see what it would look like. There’s a pair of clippers in the bathroom cabinet right now, so what’s stopping me? That’d be me too. I’m scared I’ll look like a coconut. For all I know, my friend was scared she’d look like a coconut the first time she chopped all her hair off. She didn’t of course, but it was only by taking that risk that she found out.
Fitness-wise, I do OK. You could be forgiven for thinking I was just born skinny and continue to enjoy the spoils of my genetic lottery win, but I actually do watch what I eat and I exercise too. I have the upper body strength of a pet shop goldfish, but I know all it would take is some weights and a few minutes of my time each day to sort that out quick-smart.
Over the years I have tried surfing and yoga and managed OK at both. I’m sure I would have done even better if I’d practised between classes. I could probably try pole dancing too if I bothered to sort out the upper body strength issue first.
I actually own property as well. Sure, it’s a concrete-cancer-addled red brick monstrosity in Sydney’s Inner West. Perhaps I could’ve spent my money more wisely and bought a beachfront acreage in South America for the same (or, for all I know, less) money. More fool me.
My point is that jealousy is… well… pointless. Jealousy clouds the real issue, which is unlocking your own potential.
The truth is, I don’t want an acre block in El Salvador (unless you want to bestow one on me, in which case I’ll take it!) I have different goals and priorities and I’m pretty happy with my progress against those so far. I don’t want to take up pole dancing either. I know it’s fun, because at one stage I had the bruises to prove it after playing around on a friend’s setup at her house, but at the moment I’d rather learn Mandarin – it’s just as fun (but maybe in a slightly different way!)
I’m going to hazard a guess and say that those bitter pedestrians don’t particularly want to run a half marathon either. They may have their own fitness goals, but spitting venom at me as I pass is not going to help them one iota.
Fortunately, I have a pretty thick skin and years of high school “nerd” training to prepare me for the onslaught of negativity.
What spurs me on in the face of the negativity is all the positivity that can flow from deciding to live a little differently. I don’t feel so trapped by my own feelings of jealousy and negativity anymore, because I don’t need to feel jealous – I’m doing exactly what I want to be doing, so seeing other people achieve or enjoy life no longer makes me feel bad about the things I am not doing myself. Instead, these days, I feel free to treat other people’s accomplishments as a shopping list of things I’d like to do myself, cherry-picking my favourites as bucket list additions.
I have spoken to quite a few people now who have been inspired by this list to conjure up a list of their own, or to take up that class they’d always wanted to try. As a result, some of my friends and I now feel like we have a lot more to say when we’re confronted by that inevitable question “So, what have you been up to lately?” In return, I can thank them for helping me come up with the list in the first place, whether directly by submitting a suggestion, or indirectly by living their own lives in a way that inspired me to start the list in the first place.
Whether your goals involve exotic land purchases, running half marathons, getting around to that hobby you’ve always wanted to try, or just changing up your daily routine so you do more than eat, work and sleep, I encourage you to go for it. Leave the haters in your glorious wake, because…
(Don’t say it Amanda, don’t say it….)
So, what have you been up to lately?