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When you describe yourself to someone, what comes first? Your job? Your gender? The current race you’re training for? Do those things define you? It can be easy to tell someone about ourselves by picking the things we tend to spend the most time on. But if you take the time to sit down and think about it, choosing how to define ourselves and our identities can be a challenge.
Oftentimes we can become transfixed on a singular focus of identity. In reality, there are many forms of identity that make up our whole self: personal identity (your individual goals, values, and beliefs), relational identity (who you are in relationship to those around you), and collective identity (a feeling of belonging among certain groups such as within gender, nationality, or ethnicity). Taking action to understand your identity can help you set and achieve goals by having a clearer understanding of what you truly want out of life.
Of course, it’s important to recognize that “who you are” can, will, and should change—and that by defining yourself in this moment in time, you aren’t trying to self-limit who you can be in the future.
With 360 YOU, our ultimate goal is to celebrate and nurture the fact that for women, running is only a portion of the 360 degrees that make up who we are. Even if we decide it’s 180 degrees, that’s only half—we run, but we’re more than running. We challenged the women of Atalanta NYC, who make their living through running, to consider the “other degrees” that add up to their 360. Their responses were enlightening—and delightful. All of them said something about how this breakdown only represents a snippet in time of their lives, that the elements of who they are shift and change as they (and their priorities) do.
Mary Cain: “I’m 100 percent Mary.”
“Not to be cliche, but I’m 100 percent Mary. On any given day, my priorities might shift a bit—between training, Atalanta NYC, writing, reading, time with family, friends, and Nala, and so much more!—so there’s never a neat breakdown. But that’s how I like it. Periodization is important, and the more grace I give myself to keep evolving what it means to be me, and not feel the need to commit to one rigid structure, the more I know I’m going to grow and keep making the most out of everyday!”
Jamie Morrissey: “This changes day-to-day.”
“I think this honestly changes day-to-day, but I think a general breakdown would look like this: 50% Athlete/Teammate; 20% Friend/Daughter/Sister/Lover; 10% Phoebe Bridgers Fanatic; 10% Foodie; 5% Coach; 5% Professional Dog Snuggler”
Aiobhe Richardson: “5 percent professional sleeper”
“These definitely ebb and flow at different times of the year—sometimes, in the lead up to big competitions, I can feel like everything I do revolves around me as an athlete. Whereas, in the off season (especially when I am home in Ireland), I can step back from running and be more of a sister, daughter, and friend than an athlete: 40% Athlete/Teammate; 20% Sister/Daughter; 20% Partner/Friend; 10% Foodie; 5% Coffee fanatic; 5% Professional sleeper (although I spend a lot more than 5% of my time doing this!)”
Karisa Nelson: “10 percent soirée enthusiast.”
“I just want to put 1% of a million different things! But these are the main things I think of when I really boil it down: 40% lover of self and others (insert self-cringe); 20% athlete; 10% reader; 10% writer; 10% soirée enthusiast; 5% professional eater/amateur chef; 5% sub-par musician/music consumer.”
What Is Your 360 YOU?
Now is your time to reflect on your journey with 360 YOU. We recommend writing down your thoughts and feelings about your journey as a runner. How does running fit into the rest of your life pie chart? Consider the three aspects of identity:
- Personal. What your personal goals in life? What are the activities you enjoy doing? How do they enrich your life? How do they fit into your values and beliefs?
- Relational. What relationships define you? What does being a mom/sister/daughter/friend/mentor mean to you?
- Collective. How have your collective identities shaped how you move through the world? How can you show support to other women or other groups you identify with?
These are not easy answers. But spending the time to try and understand these concepts of self can positively benefit your life by improving your self-confidence and feeling of belonging.