By Abby Huggins Mowinski
I wrote these words a year ago — in an email to my race team, stemming from feelings of inadequacy in captaining such a superb set of athletes. While it is written from the perspective of an athlete, the responses I received revealed that it resonated on a deeper frequency than just performance on the race course. It’s about life ... and how we treat ourselves in the midst of it.
And while I can say that I have, in many ways, offered myself more grace and forgiveness over this past year, these words always bear repeating and renewed reflection.
It’s about Self-Compassion.
I spent a large part of yesterday silently beating myself up after my performance in a race I have done for many years in a row. It is a race I love and a race I always have good success in. But I think it’s about time I started re-imagining my definition of success. My time was the slowest it has ever been on that course, regardless of weather and conditions, and that is what I chose to focus on after the race. I internalized that perceived failure and spent way too long mired in self-criticism and rumination about my performance.
But that excessively self-critical mindset isn’t productive – it doesn’t lead me to some positive outcome. It is simply my pride and perfectionism setting unrealistic goals for this point in time. I need to recognize that there are many factors that influence my performance: those I can control – my effort, my mindset, and my attitude, and those that are far beyond my control.
I think fear of complacency is what has always held me back from self-compassion and self-forgiveness. How can I strive to be the best I can be if I let myself off the hook for shortcomings? But that is distorted thinking, especially as an adult, and particularly as a parent. Once you accept responsibility for the care and well-being of others, aside from just yourself, part of you must be given away. That is the wonderful, magical cost of parenthood. My life hasn’t belonged to me for 13 years. These past 12 months have made that even more glaringly obvious.
The veneer has been wearing thin for a while now, but it is fully exposed at this point.
I cannot do it all.
I cannot be the vet, the parent, the wife, the professor, the volunteer, the athlete…all equally. Time and energy are not limitless. There is no “balance” – that is a fallacy. But I can choose which roles I will prioritize and those that I will concede to being “good enough.”
Remember, embracing self-compassion is not the same as lowering one’s performance expectations. Instead, it is remembering that you are doing your best in the context of your life.
I am going to try hard to lean into self-forgiveness and self-compassion as an athlete, as a parent, and as a human this year and always. It is still very much a work in progress, but I hope as I work at being less self-critical and treat myself with some kindness, that I implicitly give you the permission to do the same for yourselves.