Wednesday, August 8, 2018

How Running Boosted My Self-Esteem

I grew up a very quiet, shy girl.  I didn't like being center of attention. I blushed if someone said my name. I wasn't confident that I could answer a question right in class or do anything in front of a crowd without getting embarrassed or doing something wrong. I remember piano recitals being incredibly intimidating to me. I just wasn't a confident person. But running helped me break out of that.

I started running as a 9-year-old. I didn't do anything huge. I ran in a few Hershey track meets. I ran with my family and that's about it until high school.  Running didn't help me raise my self-esteem right off. It did help a lot with depression and stress. But it didn't change my self-esteem until I had been running for a while.  And it took me a while to notice the change myself.

As a teen, I still had pretty low self-esteem. I wasn't nearly as shy, although I still blushed on command. But I had a group of friend that I was comfortable around and I didn't mind getting attention. Still, I compared myself to others ALL THE TIME. I was hard on myself because I was never smart enough, pretty enough, or talented enough. All lies. But all those things that I told myself made me lose a lot of friendships and opportunities.

And then something clicked and none of those things mattered a whole lot anymore. I was able to focus on me and what I was good at. I got to focus on how I wanted to improve and what was best for me. I'm still shy, I still have self-esteem struggles now and then. I still question if I'm doing stuff "right" but I don't care as much about what people think of the person I am.

I attribute this change to running because a lot of my self-esteem issues had to do with proving that I was good at something.  I needed to feel validated. And I didn't get that from a lot of other things. I wasn't one of those runners who were good enough to get a scholarship or who got mail inviting them to certain races.  But after high school when I started running just for me and not for a team, I didn't have anyone to compare myself to anymore except for myself. It was much much easier for me to see the progress that way.

I found a running program and routine that worked for me and for my body. And I stuck to it because I got to choose when I ran and what I did. (Along with having a low self-esteem I was also pretty stubborn and didn't want to do a whole lot when it wasn't my idea...I was just a hard teenager altogether).

I started noticing the difference in my appearance. I loved the way my legs looked, not in a vain way, but in the way that I noticed how strong and toned my legs were getting. I could see an improvement in my body image.

I started noticing that my workouts were paying off. I was PRing way more frequently and when I did race, I was placing much better than I did before.

I noticed that my attitude, my emotions were much better after running. I liked that I was feeling happier and kinder. I was excited about more things in life than I ever had been.

People started asking me about how to start running or about what to do for their first race or to be a running buddy and a support to them while they were starting out.  Having someone come to me for answers helped me feel smart. It helped me realize that I did have some kind of advice to offer.

Getting back from a run after a stressful day or situation and getting that empty, completely drained, feeling helped me realize that I don't have to fix everything right now. It also helped me process my feelings and thoughts and taught me that somethings just don't matter enough to spend time worrying about.

Running changed me as a person. It made me better, happier, and more confident. And that's why I love running and I always will.

What helps you with your self-esteem?

Were you a hard child or teenager?


  1. Yup I've had similar experiences. I am not the most amazing runner but the idea that if I put the work in I can do it makes a difference. I feel very lucky that I've had running in my life as long as I've had and not only has it been good for my self-esteem but also my self-body image and my relationship to food.

    1. Yes yes yes! I don’t know where I’d be without running.