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Martha St Jean

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Are You Running Like a Girl?

Posted: 07/22/11 02:05 PM ET

I interviewed fellow Huffington Post blogger, Mina Samuels about what it means to Run Like a Girl. We live in a day and age where girls and women feel they have to be someone else to be empowered. Running is more than just a sport, it's about living a lifestyle of achievement.

1. Can you share with me why you chose the theme of sports as a metaphor for life in your book: Run like a Girl?

I did not so much "choose" the theme of sports as it chose me. I was brainstorming around a non-fiction book idea and a friend said, "write about what you feel passion for." I woke up the next morning to go for a run and realized it was what I felt passionate about. Not that I wanted to be a professional runner -- but that the feelings I experienced and really practiced in running were informing my whole life and had resulted in enormous changes. And I knew I wasn't the only woman who felt that way.

2. I think many women grow up with the idea that the self-esteem issues they faced as teenagers would not follow them into adulthood. For many women the issues surrounding self-confidence are actualized in the workplace. How can we develop a healthier self-image?

How hopeful we are as teens that things will pass and suddenly everything will be all figured out when we're adults. Now that's one of the biggest myths propagated. Whenever people say to me, "children need...", whatever it is that children need -- love, sleep etc...I always think, adults need that, too -- we're just scared to admit it. We think it's weak to need as adults. What's interesting is that owning up to our needs is what makes us more self-confident; because when we get comfortable with all the parts of ourselves, then our authentic self shines through and that radiant self-confidence is real. Unlike the kind of arrogant-style self-confidence we often see in men (and some women), which is really just masking a host of insecurities. We develop a healthier self-image in two ways -- first, by getting to know ourselves and get comfortable with ourselves (something I think sports helps with) and also by being less judgmental of others. One of the reasons we often have bad self-images is because we are obsessed by what other people are thinking. And we think they are thinking negative things -- why? -- because we are busy criticizing others, so why wouldn't we think they are doing the same back at us. Less judgment all around -- toward self and others.


3. What are some "hills" in life that women face that you believe participating in sports would help address?

There are many "hills" in women's lives. Here are a few:

  • Self-image in general and our tendency toward depression (which is a form of inward facing anger). Sports de-stress and produce all sorts of lovely chemicals, which counteract depression and release steam. Sports also demonstrate to women, in particular, how grossly they have misjudged their capacity for success. Women are constantly surprising themselves with their athletic accomplishments, and that "information" about their abilities, necessarily spills over into the rest of their lives.
  • Body-image. I won't say much about this. Most of us struggle. Being fit and healthy is a great medicine against this ill -- because it reminds us on an almost daily basis how good we can feel in our bodies, regardless of what we think we see in the mirror.

  • Setbacks, disease, illness, divorce, other break-ups -- the palliative effect of sports is tremendous. It won't fix our lives, but it might make us realize that fixing is not the goal. Rather, finding happiness is the goal, and feeling good inside ourselves, as sports can help us feel, is the only route.

  • Self-confidence. Women tend to sell themselves short. In sports we learn to own our ambition and our successes, so we can take that out into the rest of our lives and claim our accomplishments.

4. How does failure produce success?

There is no real success without failure. Because to succeed at something (as opposed to just do something well you didn't have to work at) means that you must risk failure and learn to deal with failure. All big successes are built on a foundation of failure. And, in fact, success is defined by our ability to pick ourselves back up and try again.

5. Finally, how has running revolutionized your life?

Running, and many other sports, demonstrated to me how much I had underestimated my own capabilities. It gave me the fortitude to leave an established career path and forge a new one fraught with difficulty and challenges -- that is, writing. And one in which I would need to believe in myself to keep going.

 

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