Don’t you hate that sometimes in this life we encounter people who misunderstand us? Perhaps they are family members, people in our community, friends or critics of various kinds. Since Second Wind came out, I’ve had emails from readers who tell me about unkindesses they’ve faced in their lives. Some have been judged to be lazy because they are overweight; some have been denigrated in abusive relationships for years before they found a way out; and still others have been through dark and difficult times (like the loss of a loved one) and have had to listen to well-meaning (but misunderstanding) people speak clichés to them which only increased the pain. These same readers have shared with me how running (or other forms of strenuous exercise) has provided a way to come face to face with the self in a fresh way and heal from the pressure to meet other people’s standards.
The thing is, there are voices everywhere telling us who to be—or who not to be. The media are typical culprits, pressuring men and women to behave (i.e., spend money) in a certain way, but there are other voices, too. Every family has expectations of its members, and in some families, if you decide those expectations don’t fit for you, there are high prices to pay in the form of judgment and pressure to re-conform. Even groups of friends (or church communities, work staffs, or volunteer groups) have implicit agreements about the roles each member gets to play. When you decide to step outside of the norm, other people get anxious. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’ve either never stepped outside of the expectations others have for you or you’re the only person on the planet who is surrounded by perfectly understanding people who totally support whatever you do and never fail to understand where you’re coming from, and I’m happy for you.
The rest of us live in a world where some people on some days cannot see us, do not want to be curious about who we really are and wish we were more like them. I recently read a review of my book from a reader who hated it. S/he missed the point altogether and accused me of all kinds of things I don’t think are true of how I represented myself in the story. So, like you, the reader of this blog, I have to live with being misunderstood. And how will I do that? Just like you do. We get some time alone on the trails (or in meditation, yoga, hiking, the quiet of a church sanctuary). We remember the irrefutable fact that there are almost seven billion people on earth and some of them simply will not get us, like us or want to be around us. But out of all those seven billion souls there is likely to be a handful who thinks we’re cool. We run/walk/dance/ride to where those people live, get cheered up and then get back to our lives, living as authentically as we know how.
If you, like me, have had a negative voice intrude on your energy or trajectory this week, don’t let it take the wind from your sail. Take heart. You don’t need everyone to love you. You only need a few.