This an entry I wrote for my then-derby-league’s blog, but never submitted. I have recently transferred to a different league, but I liked this and wanted to post it somewhere.
Self confidence has long eluded me.
I was a very shy, anxious teenager. It was a huge accomplishment when I managed to speak up in class. I would frequently spend so long analyzing what I wanted to say that the moment it was relevant would pass, and I would be left silent and shaking instead.
Things got a bit better in my early 20’s – I had a couple of retail jobs where I had to learn very quickly how to talk to people. It was terrifying, but the longer I did it the easier it got. But the second guessing remained – I would lie awake at night thinking about things I’d said during the day that I thought were embarrassing, imagining customers or coworkers remembered these things with the same minute detail that I did. Of course I know that’s rarely true, but I couldn’t stop myself from thinking it.
Fast forward to May of 2012. I decided I wanted to play roller derby after seeing a friend’s bout up in Vermont. There was a magic in the air – all of these women were so badass. They were decisive, confident. That was the kind of person I wanted so badly to be – one that did things with conviction, that wasn’t so paralyzed by anxiety that she talked herself out of even starting anything new.
I began the fresh meat program with no assumption that I’d level up, ever. I just wanted to try. I wanted to be in better shape, and I needed to know if I could do something I set out to do, even if it scared me. I did the best that I could. I fell hard and often. I felt everyone’s eyes on me as I did a lap alone in a drill, I felt slow and awkward and uncoordinated. I saw only what I expected to see – all the failures, all the mistakes. When I assessed for level 1, I was so nervous I felt sick. I spent the entire assessment convincing myself that I had failed, telling myself it was okay, I would do better the next time. Much to my surprise and relief, I passed. But that triumph was soon drowned out by the much louder critic in my head – you’re slow, you’re out of shape, you will never get better.
I almost stopped going. It felt like so much pressure – why would I intentionally put myself through something so difficult?
But I had started this. And I wanted to be someone that did things with conviction, that wasn’t so paralyzed by anxiety that she talked herself out of continuing when things were hard.
At some point, I turned a corner. Practice became something I looked forward instead of something I dreaded. All the hours of skating, and all the time spent talking myself into going, began to pay off. I transitioned to skate backwards without falling, first only once, then more consistently. I found I could do 5 laps in one minute if I pushed myself hard enough.
Level 2 assessments came on a freezing, early Sunday morning. I was so nervous I shook through most of the assessment, started hyperventilating. I told myself that I could make it through one more drill. Then one more. Again, all I saw were mistakes – the times I fell, the times I stumbled. I convinced myself I hadn’t passed, that it was okay, that I would try again.
When one of the assessors told me that I’d improved so much, that she was proud of me, I almost cried. I had accomplished something I thought was impossible.
While I still see the flaws, still second guess myself, I’m beginning to see the things I accomplish. I wish that I could tell my nervous, awkward teenage self the kind of woman I would become – someone that does things with conviction, that isn’t so paralyzed by anxiety that she talks herself out of moving forward.