The above words may be the greatest thing ever written by prominent film critic Roger Ebert.
To understand why requires a bit of context. In 2002 Ebert was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Follow-up surgery last fall required a tracheostomy and removal of part of his jaw. These procedures have left him unable to speak and have disfigured his face. Ebert recently made his first public appearance since the surgery at the Overlooked Film Festival in Champaign, Illinois. Before the festival, Ebert wrote that he was told that making an appearance in this condition would attract the gossip papers and invite unflattering photos.
Ebert's response should teach all of us something about worrying too much about what other people think. This really speaks to me as triathlon season begins to ramp up. Endurance athletes are notorious for their long list of excuses both before and after races. In the field of psychology this is known as self-handicapping. It is a basic defense mechanism designed to protect our ego, or self-image. It works like this. If I tell my friends/family/training partners about how I've been dealing with a nagging injury and missed two whole workouts last week, then in my mind I have an excuse for not doing well. On the other hand, (the thinking goes) if I do better than people's expectations AND I overcame all these "obstacles" I look so much the better. People do this all the time without realizing it. Problem is, once it is spoken -or even thought- then you are setting yourself up to fail. When the race/training/life/whatever starts to get hard then you've already given yourself an excuse- an easy way out.
Across the board most athletes are not primarily limited by genetics, time to train, equipment, etc. They are limited by lack of faith in themselves.
The best expression of this that I have ever came across is from a book (I haven't read it) by Marianne Williamson:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of god. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” -A Return To Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles
So this then is my charge to you. Let go of the excuses. You don't need them. They do nothing but hold you back.
People may laugh. They may doubt and criticize. They might call you crazy. If they do, just remember Roger Ebert and his battle with cancer: "Who Cares?"