Lean into Weakness

At the beginning of this summer, I injured my foot while running. Because of my injury, I was pretty much sidelined from running for the rest of the season. This, of course, is heartbreaking when you live in Wisconsin because there are only a few good months of outdoor running, and I missed most of them.

When I did start running again, someone pointed out to me that my stride had changed and I noticed that I was smacking my foot straight down onto the pavement to avoid bending it, as the motion of rising up into my toes had previously caused me a lot of pain. I realized that, while I was recovered, my body was holding onto a fear of a past pain. It was so deep in my subconscious that I didn’t even know it was happening. My body was aware of the weak point in my foot and adjusted itself to avoid any further trauma.

While I appreciate my body’s concern, a weak point that remains unattended will always be a weak point. Yes, when I now adjust my gait and pay close attention to the rotation of my foot, I can correct my sloppy stride, but that weak point always aches when I run properly. Sure, a nuisance now, but it is the only way to build my strength back up.

I know what you’re thinking.

Get to the point, Robbins. 

So here it is. I think this subconscious desire to protect my soft spots manifests itself in a lot of areas of my life. There are the physical events, of course, but I think it’s something that also carries over into my emotional experiences.

When life delivers me a heavy blow, I always try to take it really well. I digest, understand, and move on. Or so I think.

I tell myself that I’m no longer bothered by the past event, whatever it may be, and no longer have strong emotions tied to it. Yet, I find myself very actively avoiding situations with the potential to head down the same path. Regardless of how likely it may be. I change my stride so I don’t have to put pressure on a point that might hurt again.

Personal example? When I was 18, I had a friendship that became very close, very quickly, and feel apart awfully. I didn’t realize until about a year ago that since that fall-out, every female friendship I’ve made has remained at a superficial level. I was isolating myself from incredible people because I was worried that I might end up aching again.

Now, a quick jump back to my running analogy. My decision to baby my weak point did indeed keep my foot from hurting. However, my new, sloppy running style meant that I was not moving my body properly and thus, my ankle and knee on that leg began to hurt while running.

Protecting myself from one hurt was only moving the hurt around to somewhere else. If the moment I started running again, I had put the pressure on my weak joint, straightened out my stride, and breathed through the discomfort, I would have my strength back by now. I would have no pain anywhere and I would have been able to work back to my normal running pace.

For all of the years since I was 18, I’ve often felt like I didn’t have a lot of close friendships and, most of the time, I felt really lonely. I thought that was due to matters outside of my control, but the more I looked at it I realized I was the one pulling back from people, not the other way around. In the act of nursing the sting of a failed friendship, I was just moving the hurt around to feel lonely instead.

Yea, yea, I’m getting to the point.

The only way to be strong again is to lean into your weakness. To work and knead it even when it’s uncomfortable. A one time injury can become a chronic issue if not recovered properly. The difference between physical and mental pain is that you have the control to ensure a difficult moment in time doesn’t cripple you for life.