Do you ever find yourself ruminating about someone’s unexpected or unpleasant comment to you? Hopefully for your wellbeing’s sake this only happens occasionally but I suspect some humans are quite susceptible to the opinions of others. The words we say to each other matter. Our comments can dramatically impact someone’s experience of life, mental health and their courage to pursue life goals. For this reason, I would like to encourage everyone to focus on kindness and support in all of our interactions with others.
Around five years ago I completed the Oxfam 100km Trailwalker but… I nearly didn’t get there. My team and I were loosely following the training program recommended by the event organisers. We all had young children at the time so we had to fit our training around family and work. We usually did individual training during the week and caught up for bushwalks of growing distance on Sundays.
A few months out from Trailwalker, I attended a business networking event for the first time. Keen to get to know other attendees, I got into a conversation with a couple of the regulars. One was a personal trainer and the other an accountant. Somehow the topic of Trailwalker came up. When asked how much training I was doing I shared my activity and that we were being guided by the recommended program. The accountant exclaimed “That’s not enough training!”. I replied “I have done some long distance events before, I’ve ridden my bicycle from Sydney to the Gold Coast a couple of times … I’ve walked the Kokoda Track in PNG …” The personal trainer said “That was then, this is now”. They suggested my team drop back to the 60km event instead. I asked if they’d done the event before and the accountant told me she’d done the 60km after her team realised that was their best bet.
As the meeting progressed an uneasiness washed over me. By the time I arrived back at my home office I was feeling quite uncomfortable. The entire drive home I worried that maybe they were right, maybe I was kidding myself trying to tackle such an audacious goal. For the next couple of days I drove myself crazy questioning whether I was doing the right thing … Was I about to fail? I was feeling nauseous and foggy when I finally decided to pick up the phone and chat to a friend who knew me well and had previously completed the 100km Trailwalker. When I told her what had transpired she said, “How can they say that Donna, they don’t even know you? You’re tough Donna, you have an incredibly strong mindset. Sometimes people project their stuff on us, they think they’re trying to help but it’s really about their fears and insecurities”.
This was just what I needed to hear.
Over the next couple of months I would do reps up and down my back stairs when I was at home with my son and once his dad was home, I would walk one of the hilly side streets for 20 minutes repeating my friend’s words “That’s right, you’re tough Donna, you’ve got this”.
I not only completed Trailwalker, I walked the entire 100km with a gastro-intestinal issue that meant I had to limit my food and water intake. The lessons I took from the experience included:
* We are so much tougher than we think
* Our mindset can make or break us
* We need less sleep than we think (we had none during the 36 hour event but this is obviously not sustainable on a regular basis)
In light of my Trailwalker experience, here’s three tips in case you find yourself struggling with a comment:
- Reach out to someone to chat about it. Get out of your head and bounce the issue around with one or two people that you trust. Often just talking can help us gather our thoughts and shift our energy.
- Believe in yourself. Reflect on your past achievements and the process you used to prepare for them. Tap into your strengths. Borrow the belief of others if you’re particularly struggling and need a boost out of it.
- Realise that it might be about them rather than you. While people are often well meaning, sometimes it’s actually their ‘stuff’. We all see the world through our own set of filters and just because their set generates a certain picture this may not be the case for you.
I hope you find these tips helpful when you need them. Let’s all get into the practice of reflecting on our interactions with others. Are you kind and supportive in conversations? Are you aware of how your filters influence your reality? Are you encouraging those around you to be the best version of themselves?
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Donna Thistlethwaite is a Brisbane-based speaker and trainer specialising in mental health and resilience. She is an accredited Mental Health First Aid Instructor and Resilience at Work Facilitator with a passion for suicide prevention and for helping individuals, teams and organisations to THRIVE. You can find out about her next Mental Health First Aid courses here.