For NEDA Week, a Reminder from Mary Cain: “Be Patient and Kind to Yourself”
"I sometimes look back on my younger self and wish I could give her a hug."
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On February 28, 2021, in honor of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week (which this year runs from today until February 27), I penned a letter to younger female runners that I posted on Instagram. Reflecting one year later, I would repeat all of the advice I shared then: Take a process-oriented and joyful approach to sport, surround yourself with people who love you for your whole self, and never fear asking for help. You’re always worth fighting for.
Looking back on that letter, I realize there’s one piece of advice I should always remind myself and others: be patient and kind to yourself.
There were moments in the last two years of my life when I felt I had to have everything figured out. It felt that I needed to be further along in my own healing journey to truly serve as the advocate and mentor that I wanted to be. And there was something really scary about knowing that I will never be perfect at the very things I encourage, or to take a process-oriented approach to sport, asking for help, or overcoming the negative body image thoughts in my head. I understood that I was improving in each of these areas, but it felt like I needed to have everything right all of the time.
Seeking perfection robs us of enjoying the journey and truly letting ourselves dare to dream. It’s important to accept that nobody is perfect and that’s part of the amazing part of being a person. We are all constantly changing, learning, and adapting, so we’re bound to stumble along the way. So you can’t stop trying to either help both yourself and others based on the fear of failure or not getting everything right all the time.
This year, my mantra is to “try big things.” Rather than worry about failure or disappointing others, I’m trying to show up each and every day, doing my best. Sometimes, that’s going to mean succeeding tremendously; other times, I’m not going to. But as long as I go to bed each night knowing I’m truly trying my best, I know I’m going to find pride in both the ups and downs of this journey.
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