September 20, 2014

We're not special snowflakes, which is good, because they melt really fast, but we are different, I guess

This isn't a new sentiment, but something I do try and remind myself of quite often. I think it's worth sharing.

We - as runners, and more broadly speaking, fitness dorks in general - have a tendency to look at those faster than us and think, "What I'd do to have such talent", and then to glance at those slower than us and think, "There's so much more they could - maybe even should - be doing."

"I, of course, am not talented. Not in the slightest. But I work very hard, and it is because of that work that I have such fitness as I do. I deserve this, because I've earned every second."

There is a myriad of psychological phenomena on display here, but mostly I think it's an attempt to veil hubris with modesty. In saying "I'm not any good", we're trying to diminish ourselves, to suggest a deflated sense of ego. I think what we're actually doing is the opposite, however. In suggesting that we're slow, genetically cursed, etc., we are in fact inflating our work ethic. We are imagining ourselves as the quintessentially American ideal, to whom nothing was given, and everything was earned by blood, sweat, and diligent toil.

I say "we", not because I'm talking to you specifically, but rather you generally. And of course, because I'm including myself.

The answer, of course, is to appreciate whatever measure of talent we've got, and indulge in whatever amount of training seems worthwhile. And then to grant that others have variable talent levels, and are free to train as much as they see fit. Speed is not a moral imperative, and thus we shouldn't attach too much to those who have it, those who don't, and whether anyone bothers to pursue it.

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