This probably won't be a surprise to most people, but when you enter the gym/running/fitness world, it comes with its' own culture, and its' own language. The words and ideas that are now so normalized and incorporated into my vocabulary and thinking, felt, at first, like I was crossing the border into a brand new country. In addition, these things were said with a confidence and certainty that I was not accustomed to. I felt entirely out of my element trying to navigate my body and mind through this world.
But of all the new terms and phrases, nothing cut right to the core and took my breath away quite like this one, simple word: PROUD.
I didn't know why, exactly, that this knocked me off my center when I first heard it. I don't remember it having been said to me before. I most certainly wasn't accustomed to feeling that way about myself. I also think I had picked up on a negative connotation attached to the whole concept of feeling proud, or of someone else being proud of you. Perhaps, I had thoughtlessly adopted it too. Whatever the case, I will never forget the first time it was used in reference to me. It was in an email from my coach about 3 months after we had started working together. I had come off of a very busy week with work and life and commitments, but still had prioritized my workouts--no excuses, just got it done. He wrote and pointed this out, and said he couldn't be more proud of me. You know when someone says something so shocking in a conversation that the response is DEAD SILENCE? What is the equivalent of that when you are alone reading an email?? I did not know what to do, or what to think. I did not have any prior reference for the feeling that evoked inside of me. Proud of me? Proud of me? What I do know is that any previous relationship to the phrase I'm Proud of You must have been built on shifting sands, because it was gone in a flash. Any negativity, any cynicism, any defensive around it VANISHED. I didn't know how to define what I was feeling, but the feeling itself was simple and undeniable: It felt good. I liked it. I think it even felt right? I deserved it. I think I earned it. A brick was laid that very moment in a new foundation, one that was not built on sand, but on solid ground. A new structure, from the ground up, retaining the original pieces that were worth keeping, but replacing the crumbling, out-of-date stones with sturdy, bold ideas.
Since that day, I have been highly tuned to the word PROUD. Words hold a lot of weight. And this is a big word; a powerful word. It is not unlike the word love, to me. It should be used with care and thoughtfulness. It should not be tossed around, and the relationship and context within which it is used matters. It might even be that you have to earn the right in someone's life, or even your own, to be able to say it. To me, PROUD and PRIDE are different, but I'm not sure it matters to the world at large how I work all of that out for myself.
What does matter is this: it's been four years since that door was opened by one word, one idea. It's been said to me many, many times since; and I have grown the courage to say it to myself and other people. Now what I think I felt that day, and every time since, is that it made me feel seen. I Was Seen. My work, my effort, my grit, my heart were in play, and someone saw that. And said so. Running offers me countless opportunities to keep earning that feeling for myself, through big and small wins alike. PROUD is one of the best gifts running gave to me, and I'm grateful to have it as part of my foundation.