Trail Sisters recently received an email addressing an issue that I don’t often hear about, although, I believe it is something many women maybe be feeling. With the sender’s permission, I am sharing her email, as well as my response. I’m hopeful that by displaying this dialog, it may bring relatability to those experiencing the same thoughts, and also comfort to know it’s ok.
I am not a Trail Sister.
Trust me, I want to be – like a pony wants to be a horse, like a shrub wants to be a tree – but like the pony and the shrub, inevitably I fall short.
Don’t get me wrong, there are women that I love, that I will cheer for until I no longer have a voice. There are women I don’t know that I will do the same. But there are moments, many moments when I cannot cheer for the successes of other women, and it makes me feel horrible.
I wonder constantly to myself: why am I such a bad person? Why can’t I just embrace the female population and be happy for each and every one of them and their accomplishments? It tears me apart. I shove it down, I smile, I try and fake it, but I know: every moment I cannot be someone else’s cheerleader, sometimes, I want them to fail – most of those times it’s when their result directly affects me, or seems to.
After many years I have started to come to terms with this, I have told myself that either it’s just not in my DNA, or there is some deep-seeded flaw in who I am. Maybe my mom didn’t teach me that, maybe someone stole my boyfriend in junior high and it scarred me for life. Maybe, maybe something.
I very much keep to myself, eschew social media and any public participation, I run 99% of the time by myself. I find that even though it might sound awfully sad to someone, to me, it keeps all of those ‘less than sisterly’ thoughts private.
It is my own struggle. Sometimes I hope there are others out there like me. Sometimes I wish there was a group for women who want to be supportive, but they know at any time each of us could flip and not want success for that person. Does that group even exist?
I like the thought of being a Trail Sister, I want to buy the hat and wear it proudly. I want to high five the woman who goes by me the other way wearing the hat, and do whatever secret handshake a Trail Sister has, but honestly, I wouldn’t be able to do that if that woman was passing me.
But I also wouldn’t speed up, I wouldn’t try and pass her, I wouldn’t try and trip her – I would say to myself that whatever that woman is doing at that time is her best effort and any increased effort on my part would not be true to myself, it would be outside of what I can give, what I can expend, what I want to expend, and I would let her go.
See it is not competition that makes me this way. It is not my competitive nature. I have come to realize over the past few years that I am not a competitive person, I am a comparative person. I don’t care that she is faster or fitter, I don’t want to beat her, at least I don’t want to exert the effort to do that, I want it to happen naturally. Inevitably what happens, is the conversation in my head as to why that woman is much better than me, why she deserves to be, and why I, ultimately, do not deserve better, and I want those conversations to stop. I want to find a way to make them stop.
So forgive me Sisters – if I do not buy the hat, if I don’t hand out ‘you go girls’ every time I see one of you. Forgive me, because somewhere in the dark corners of my heart and mind I want to love you, I want to be accepted by each and every one of you but that comparative being in me won’t let me, and it hurts too much to pretend, no matter how hard I want to.
First off, I want to say thank you. Thank you for sharing your thoughts open and honestly, and for having the courage to put yourself out there in a way that many may not. What you have shared isn’t something to feel bad about. Instead, I applaud you for your strength to speak up.
The beautiful thing about being an individual is our ability to have our own feelings, thoughts, and opinions. It takes a lot to share something that you believe may not “go with the flow” but, I don’t think you are alone in these thoughts and feelings.
I commend you for learning about yourself, and the fact that you can identify what is causing the uneasy feelings. To compare yourself to someone else, or someone else’s abilities or successes is something we all do (to some extent). It is almost impossible not to! The key is knowing when things are spiraling out of control, and then, if you can, switch gears to doing or thinking something different. You get to create your own story, your own journey. Allow that path to be shaped by the things that drive you internally, not by all the chatter absorbed (consciously or subconsciously) externally. I know that is probably easier said than done, but practice makes perfect and I believe you will make progress!
Secondly, don’t apologize! You aren’t doing anything wrong, and no one should ever need to apologize for being honest. I really value your note and perspective, and I want you to know that nothing you think or feel discludes from being a Trail Sister. You don’t need to sport a TS hat or hand out high-fives, and just because every thought you may have isn’t oozing with rainbows and cupcakes, that doesn’t mean you can’t be a Trail Sister. If that was the case, I couldn’t be a Trail Sister either!
You see, what makes the Trail Sisters community so strong is the fact that we are all so different and in every way! There is no mold or uniform. You can be you without fear of judgment. No one is perfect, and we all struggle with something…and that is what bonds us, that is how we are able to help and inspire one another. We share a love for the trails, and the trails act as a “vessel” to growing our confidence, relationships, and general well-being.
So, when the time is right, and are able to accept that you ARE a Trail Sister too, shoot me a note and I’ll happily send you your first TS hat 🙂
Keep that chin up, and allow for some self-love. Sharing your thoughts and feelings already proves you are on the right path!
Feature Photo Credit: Sara Bloom
I feel this in my bones. Jane, you’re not alone. I started running alone because everyone – even my friends – left me behind without even flinching, but now I run alone because the cynicism that filled the void doesn’t want it any other way. I cheer people on because I genuinely want them to succeed, but the feelings left over can be hurtful. I get you, Jane, and I’m glad you wrote this. Thank you, Gina, for letting us all know that we’re part of the sisterhood whether we know it or not.
Love this! Be you, love you…every damn time! Authenticity deserves no apology and we lift each other up regardless of ability! I just love sharing the trails with others who like to suffer and at the end we just tell our tales and eat burritos ❤️
Wow, that’s some awesome honesty. I think we can all relate to this in some way. Thank you both for sharing.
Love this so much! Thank you Jane and Gina for sharing your thoughts! You are heard and valued. You deserve to be here just as much as anyone.
I love this response. It encompasses everything that is wonderful about this community.
I love this too. For years I have told myself to join a running club. Any kind of running club. Because it’s what runners seem to do. But I never do. I love running without planning. I love running alone. Maybe some day…
I can relate. You are not alone. Thank you for sharing!
Great to have honest thoughts thank you for sharing this!
I too run, or hike alone, for two main reasons: At age 54, I have some significant injuries and arthritis, although I’m still strong enough to climb many 14ers in the winter for 10-18 hour days. I at least feel pretty good about that ability. I also have had a concussion, which makes me sensitive to noise, sometimes makes me become emotional, and sometimes makes it difficult to follow conversations. Although I celebrate the successes of others, I sometimes feel I don’t fit in the group, which can feel a little lonely. Hearing this story makes me realize we can all feel connected through our honesty
This is such an incredibly raw, honest, self-aware email, and a great response from Gina. But what I think Gina and the other responses have missed so far is just how much this is a centuries-old, systemic, external issue. Systems of power (church, state) have relied on pitting women against each other. If you were raised in the western world in the last 70 years or more, you were raised on a steady diet of negative comparisons, of never being enough (I mean, thank goodness Teen Vogue is showing the way forward to the next generations of young people). The fact that you may have internalized it more strongly, or feel it more acutely, or are just more in touch with its existence, is not a character flaw. As with anything, we can’t control those external factors, but we can choose how we respond. And your willingness to put yourself out there and be honest is a great example of that, and what I’d argue makes you a true sister.