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April 28, 2014 / playforth

Motion is an illusion …

… running doubly so.

So here’s the thing. I’m ‘a runner’ now. I go for runs, often several times a week. I track them on Runkeeper. I wear running shoes and a good sports bra. I follow training plans. I have run a 5k race and plan to run 10k this summer. I can now see (however dimly) how sportspeople become driven, competing with their own personal bests on a mission to hit the next target, meet the next goal, win the next race.

Only that’s never going to be me. When I achieve a goal (5k, 6k, fastest time or whatever) it doesn’t give me a warm glow or spur me on to even greater things. Instead it’s proof that the goal was too easy, worth nothing, and I should be embarrassed to celebrate it. Same goes for work achievements. So what if I get a paper accepted or meet project targets – the poisonous logic of low self-esteem tells me that because I did it, it wasn’t an achievement at all. This is what life is like for those of us who battle with perfectionism and impostor syndrome and the like. It’s a little like a personal psychological version of Zeno’s paradox of Achilles and the tortoise – we can never truly win the race or catch up with the perfect* version of ourselves in our heads, because whenever we meet a goal or reach a high point, that perfect version is already at a higher point.

My desktop at work has this quote (usually attributed to Theodore Roosevelt) on it: Comparison is the thief of joy. It’s supposed to remind me not to measure myself against others, and to find the joy in my own way of doing things. And in general it works – I don’t envy or resent those of my friends who run marathons, publish books or do other things that I will probably never achieve. But I’m not so sanguine when it comes to measuring myself against myself. There it seems, I just can’t win.


*OF COURSE I initially typed this as ‘prefect’, given the reference at the start of this post. For which mangling, apologies to Douglas Adams.


One Comment

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  1. Simon Wood / Apr 28 2014 1:16 pm

    This must be Monday. I never could get the hang of Mondays…

    I know what you mean. And yet, ironically, when I look back on things I set out to accomplish (and did so) in the past, I start to think about how I’d never be able to do that now. So recently achieved goals were too easy; but anything I can look back on with perspective as slightly impressive is just a reminder of my own decline…

    Sorry. I seem to be sounding a bit like Marvin.

    I’m hugely impressed by running 10k, by the way. That’s as unimaginable to me as a marathon is to you.

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