I do my best when other people are watching

I do my best when other people are watching.

I came to this realization the other day. I think it’s something I’ve always known, always had in the back of my brain, but who wants to come face to face with something shameful about themselves? Not me.

A few days ago my friend Monica (long-time reader and friend, hiiiiii) and I set out on a trail run in my local forest preserve. Now, I was pretty nervous because since my life turned upside-down this summer I have only been running a few times a week, usually about 3 miles filled with plenty of “quick breaks.” Monica, on the other hand, is a natural-born runner (sprinter, but runner nonetheless) so I was worried I wouldn’t be able to keep up.

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Lookin good, eh?

First of all, it was one of the most fun runs I’ve ever had. I’ve never run without music, and I certainly never thought I could run and talk at the same time. Somehow we did it, as we ran through the beautiful forest preserve and admired all that nature had to offer (including some sickkkk-nasty bugs that I didn’t even know existed).

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Ok there was a point to this story…

So the whole time I was worried I wouldn’t be able to a) keep up or b) run as far as she wanted. Well, before I knew it we had run about 4.5 miles (at 2:00 in the hot afternoon sun, mind you) and I felt great!

So, why am I telling you this?

Because I know that if I had been running by myself I wouldn’t have lasted two miles. I would have come up with a million excuses to start walking. “It’s sooooo hot out I need to grab some water” “That tree is beautiful I need to stop and take a picture of it” “Ok three miles? That’s what I am capable of so it’s time to stop”. I know exactly what thoughts would have run through my head if I were by myself.

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I have lost the ability to push myself, for me. I am a showoff. I wanted to run far because I was with someone else. When another runner or biker approached I could feel myself making sure I was standing up straight and not breathing heavily (going so far as to hold my breath until they passed). I behave this way all the time when I’m running. I can think of a million times that I start to walk because I am tired but I see a car coming so I run again because heaven forbid someone else see me “failing.” 

The best part is, I’m sure this translates to the rest of my life. I perform best when I am showing off for others. When I hear someone coming into the room, whether it’s at home or work, I tense up and make sure I am doing something or that I look okay (i.e. sit up, redo my ponytail, etc.) I also have a weird tendancy to think that people are always watching me in social situations. In the grocery store I will catch myself scowling in a reflection (I have a bitchy resting face 🙂 ) or slouching and I will automatically make myself look better. I’m not sure what has possessed my mind to thinking that the world revolves around me, or that people in public give two flying F’s about what I’m doing when I’m hovering over the veggies at my supermarket, but I am always “on.” 

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In the past few years I’ve made decisions for my life based on what other people want. I adopt the personality of the people I’m with, or at least try my very best to complement theirs. It’s exhausting. For those of you who have read Gone Girl, I feel like the girl that Amy talked about a lot, the girl who is always trying to look “cool.” Whether it be through running, writing, speaking, partying, joking, cooking, baking, existing…I want everyone to like me and to leave the room impressed with me. I like to make impressions. I think this is the main reason why I have this nagging feeling that I don’t know who I really am.

My running realization is a metaphor for one of my weaknesses in life. I’m hoping that accepting this weakness, admitting it, writing it will help me overcome it. I really want to adopt a confident personality that doesn’t change when I’m not standing out or making an impression. I can push myself to run 4.5 miles when no one else is watching. I can have a bitchy resting face in the grocery store and not care because, let’s be honest, no one is looking, no one cares. I can go to yoga and not force myself into poses that I’m not ready for, just because I don’t want to fail. I can have a strong, confident personality and not adjust it just because the people I’m with might not think it’s the “coolest.”

I am a work-in-progress. But at the end of the day, I am enough. I might be on a journey, but the person I am now is enough.

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Questions:

  • Do you care what other people think about you?
  • Do you do your best when other people are watching?
  • What did you do to get over this and just do things for you?
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38 comments

  1. I think it’s great to run with friends and it can definitely be a confidence booster and also a nice accountability tool! I love to run with friends but definitely can appreciate a good solo run where I get out of my comfort zone and really push myself–that can be extremely rewarding.

    Keep up the phenomenal work!

      1. You will for sure! Just keep plugging away at those miles. Running long distance has been very humbling for me honestly and has taught me a lot about myself and my character.

  2. Oh hell yeah I do better when others are even just around me. For example: exercise class vs fitness dvd. Do you ever hear me talk about doing dvds? No. There you go. Give me the same class in a studio, I will kick its ass and go for 80 more reps. I don’t want to disappoint! But that can also get very tiring, so it is good to have a balance of performance and just doing something for yourself.
    But yeah, also why I don’t do speedwork.

    1. That’s a perfect example! Group fitness classes really push me too, but if I’m doing a DVD I slack. In one of Jillian Michaels’ DVDs she looks into the camera and says “I know you’re slacking” and it was exactly at a moment when I was hahaha she really called me out

  3. I love how you are translating your experience on your life as a whole. It never ceases to amaze me the kinds of things that we can learn about ourselves through this sport!
    It really depends for me I think. For some things I do better when others are watching. Running falls into this category. (Heh I’m the same way when I pass another runner or cyclist.) When it comes to work though I definitely do better when others aren’t watching because if they are watching it probably means someone is hanging over my shoulder watching me design things and I can’t stand that.

    Bitchy resting faces of the world unite. I have total bitchface too. 🙂

  4. Lauren!! This is a great post!! It’s so cool that you shared this part of your personality!! In my opinion, it takes lots of confidence and self-awareness to do this!! You’re awesome!! Thanks for this! I love your questions, too! Great personal reflection!
    Okay, well, I definitely understand what you’re saying about adapting your personality to other people and trying to change to appease everyone. I admit, I like to please people and make them feel like I really care about them and sometimes I over analyze what people think of me and how I think they perceive me. I’ve learned, though to not worry about that so much anymore and to live my life with happiness and sincerity because regardless of what they think, that’s their business.
    It’s exhausting to try to be at your best all the time and I used to try. For example, if I’m swimming and someone in the next lane starts racing me during my workout, I shrug it off. I know what I’m doing, why I’m doing it, and what I’m trying to accomplish in MY workout. I don’t need to justify myself (by racing someone) to prove that I’m a great swimmer. The same with running, lifting weights, and especially yoga. Yoga is personal time. I never compare and compete while practicing. I also find that I have some of my best runs in the darkness early in the morning. I like to blend into the darkness.
    You’re doing an amazing job on your journey to self awareness. I really look up to you and think you’re an absolutely brilliant, beautiful woman!! XOXO!!

    1. Kristin I really appreciate the depth of your answer. I know it’s going to be a long road of self-discovery before I can feel the peace that comes with really knowing who you are. I think that taking up yoga has helped me ten-fold, and even though I only do it once a week or so, I’m hoping that I can do it more often and, hopefully, feel the inner peace that comes with connecting to yourself on that level.

      1. Lauren, I understand exactly where you’re coming from. I’m trying to make peace with some stuff in my life and it’s never easy. I love how passionate you are about life and I know you will accomplish everything you set your mind to.
        Also, great job on your run!! I definitely LOVE having a running partner. A running partner REALLY helps to keep me focused and motivated!! You’re amazing!!

  5. I definitely think I try much harder when other people are around, but I think I tend to view that as more of a positive thing than a negative thing. I guess for me, I see having other people around as more of an accountability thing, at least in some aspects. When other people are around in a workout setting, I know I’m WAY less likely to slack off and more likely to actually give it my all, which I think is good! Though in the store or whatever, I’m not like that nearly as much. I’m too busy worrying about getting in and out and not forgetting anything to worry about what other people are thinking about me!

  6. Wowww…this is insanely good! I seriously have to give you a hug and a high five for being so introspective because we all need to be like that more often. I can relate to this because I naturally feel like I HAVE TO be doing something or that if I’m not doing XYZ when so and so sees me, I might be getting judged. Well you know what? I’ve come to the conclusion that it all stems from childhood. Don’t get me wrong, I love my parents and learned so many great things from them but growing up in a typical Asian home where performance is the biggest thing you can do for yourself and others, I learned the dark side of it too. They never ever rested and now they don’t rest because they don’t have a choice, so I think that mentality rubbed off on me. As a follower of Jesus I constantly find myself battling against that nature, and God always reminds me that I am loved and valuable just because of who HE is–not what I do. Thank you for sharing, Lauren! Youz awesum ❤

    1. I think religion has a lot to do with it, actually. It all translates to the idea that I am enough as I am, not because of how I perform or what I do. I can’t imagine growing up under that amount of pressure…that’s hard to recognize and move away from! Props to you 🙂

  7. Friends have an amazing ability to keep us accountable, I love it. Great job on the run. I am totally the same way, but if I get things to click just right in my brain I can push through the “I want to die and I need to stop” feelings.

    1. Besides other people, the one thing that really pushes me through to the finish line is a good song 🙂 something inspirational, that makes me feel like I’m in a movie haha…that really gets to to push through the pain

  8. Girl, you aren’t alone! I definitely push myself a lot harder if I think anyone else is watching. There are times I just don’t think I can do another rep in the weight room, but if I think someone else is observing me, I totally can pound another out. I don’t think it’s a weakness to want other people to like us! But you are wonderful just the way you are and so what if you don’t make a great first impression, you ARE enough!

    1. Yeah I think in terms of fitness it’s not necessarily a bad thing but the minute it translates into your social life, that’s an issue! It’s tiring always being “on” haha and I don’t necessarily know if I do it all the time but I need to work on it so it becomes one less thing to worry about.

  9. As much as I hate to admit it, I’ve always been a people pleaser and it can bite you in the long run. Fitness wise though, I can definitely relate- I get so lazy by myself and cut sets in the gym short etc- even my attempts of ‘running’ had been run 1 mile then go home or walk. With friends or others like a fun run- I go full gung ho from nowhere! You definitely aren’t weak buddy!

  10. Lauren, I was the same! I used to do everything to please or impress everyone else. I totally resonated with your comment about feeling like you were constantly ‘on’.
    CrossFit really helped me with this. I wasn’t like everyone else, I was weak, I didn’t have the strength to lift heavy or do most of the gymnastic moves etc etc but I was made to face that, come to terms with it and realise it was ok. It was enough to just be me, it was enough to simply be there trying my hardest. Because of this, my strength did come, my health came back and I was happy – it didn’t matter where everyone else was or what they were doing because it was enough to just be me and still is.
    I think you are awesome Lauren, so honest and courageous. As long as you are doing what makes you happy then you are enough! 🙂

    1. I think that different forms of fitness definitely help with this, you’re right! Like I said, I think incorporating more yoga will help me be more introspective and keep me from always worrying about what’s going on around me, I love reading about how big of a change Crossfit had on your life – what a powerful medicine!

  11. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t care at least a little bit about others’ opinions. One thing that we instinctively strive for is to be loved; that’s what human beings want, and often we value our worth based on it. It’s a tricky place to be, because we first and foremost need to love ourselves. I noticed in myself that I am very competitive when it comes to my job (or, former job). I consistently went above and beyond because I needed to be the best. And I was. And I loved it. The drive came from wanting to please my boss; but completely honestly, I am obsessed with the feeling of doing my best. I fail DAILY, and that makes me a human.

    Think about it this way: no one knows how you’re truly feeling, deep down. Only you can travel that far into your own soul. So being the only person that knows where your inspiration comes from, wouldn’t you want to be able to be pleased with yourself at the end of the day??

    We all struggle with trying to impress people or show off, and I think that you admitting your weaknesses in such a public way just shows how confident and raw you are!

    1. I think that the problem becomes when we place others’ expectations/thoughts/feelings above our own. It’s a vicious cycle. And I’m learning that failing is actually an amazing thing! You just get back up and try again, and things usually work out because you were brave enough to face your failures.

  12. I am the same exact way, so you’re definitely not alone! I think it’s partly the competitive nature in all of us. I always run faster or with better form if I know people are watching me. I have no clue how you talk and run though – I still haven’t perfected that. If me and Ed run together, he’ll try to start conversations and I quickly give him the death eyes because there is no way I’m responding to him when I can barely breathe lol

  13. Very insightful! It’s funny that I’m reading this today, because earlier I was working out at home and my mother-in-law was sitting on the couch watching me, and I noticed that I was more winded/sweaty than usual when doing this workout.. and then I thought, “Am I working harder because she’s watching me?” Haha. So we all do this to some extent I think! But I think the important thing is to want to do well and accomplish things for YOU and not just to impress or look good in front of others. Never forget, at the end of the day, the relationship that you have with yourself is the most important of them all 🙂

    1. That’s exactly what I’m talking about haha if someone were just watching me every time I worked out I think I’d be in much better shape 😉 it reminds me of high school, when my basketball team would practice in the gym next to the boys some days and it was those days when I sprinted my absolute hardest. Always showing off 🙂

  14. uhm this is an awesome post and it was kind of freaky reading this because i felt like you were in my brain for a while there. … the weird thing is that parts of me are strong and confident, but if i’m with people who are more confident than me in a certain setting, i find myself naturally “balancing out” their more assured personality and becoming more subdued and less “myself” at that moment. i guess i become more passive aggressive, probably as a reaction to my own insecurity around them. i try to fight it but have found that doesn’t work so well, so now i’ve just resorted to trying not to take it as seriously and just making fun of myself. seems to work. 😉

    1. That’s a really interesting point about becoming passive aggressive as a reaction to your own insecurity. I really hope one day I am confident in my personality and it just shines through, no matter who I’m with. I think the tip of not taking yourself too seriously is perfect 🙂 always a great solution!

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