Shutting out self-doubt to shift up a gear
We all have doubts about our abilities on the bike at times, whether it’s the “on no I won’t keep up” panic at the Sunday morning social ride or the more extreme “yikes I think I’m going to hurl before I reach the race start line” jitters. Sometimes it helps to remember that no matter how supremely confident those around us look, we are probably not alone. So we bring you a story from Subaru National Road Series racer Belamie Flint, who talks of how she quelled the “screaming mob” of insecurities as she stepped up to take on the role of vice-captain for the new Tasmanian Institute of Sport (TIS) Women’s Racing Team.
Let me take you back a few steps to catch up. About 18 months ago, I was approached to see if I was interested in riding for a proposed new Tasmanian women’s cycling team. As with many new projects, organisation and sponsorship was challenging and it didn’t start in the timeframe that was initially planned. Secretly I was pleased, I love the idea of challenging myself but when it comes to actually stepping out of my comfort zone all my insecurities grow from their usual quiet whisperings into a frenzied screaming mob. Without needing to make a decision about a team, I quieted my demons and got on with life.
Then, early in 2017, the call came again. This time the sponsors were signed up, the riders were lined up. Was I still interested?
The self-doubt rose to a deafening roar once again. What should I do? How would I work out what to do? Where do I even start?
I could make a list; lists fix everything.
Start with an easy question: what do I know? I know I LOVE riding my bike. I didn’t discover riding until I was in my late 30’s, when I took it up to recover from a running injury, so I have embraced all the opportunities it has afforded me since. But what else? Was my love of riding motivation enough to do this? What about all the other things that are rattling around inside my head?
Surely I am too old – I could be most of the other rider’s mother. I am not good enough. I am too much of this … not enough of that. Do the other riders even want me on the team? Maybe this is just a practical joke that all my friends are in on and they’ll have a good laugh at my expense at coffee after our ride on Friday.
I’ll give it a go
I interrupt my babbling thoughts and try to think logically again. I’m a teacher, every day I expect the children I work with to step outside their comfort zone, to try something new or to try to do something they know in a new way. Constantly I push my own teenage children to challenge themselves, to push their personal limits and set new ones. And yet here I am, unable to do the same.
And so I arrive at “OK, I’ll give it a go.”
At the time, in my head, it was a difficult decision but in hindsight deciding to say yes really was the easy part. Training for an NRS team while trying to be a mother and wife and working nearly full time is hard work; there is simply no other way to explain it. But the flip side of that is that I hope my kids – and anyone else who is interested – get to see that anything is possible. The only limits are those that we place upon ourselves. If you want something enough you can make anything happen by working hard, being organised, being determined and believing in yourself.
Act my age
I tried to tell myself this when we stood on the start line of our first race as a team at the Tour of the South West. But all of my insecurities could not be reassured by logic. Who was I kidding? I was not good enough to be standing on the line next to the rest of my team. I was about to embarrass my team, my family, myself. How old do I think I am? At 41 was it time to just grow up, stop being so ridiculous and act my age.
Fortunately, I had previously mentioned this to a friend and thankfully his words of wisdom popped in to my head: “you’re a long time dead, just do it!” And so I did. I did what I knew how to do. The race started, I clipped in and I pedalled.
To begin with my mind was going a million miles an hour. I was on high alert. It was blowing a gale and adding to my state of panic, rain was forecast – the last NRS race I did I crashed on a wet road – but still I pedalled. Then, part way through the first lap it dawned on me; there was that quiet in my head. My demons had fallen silent because I was actually enjoying myself. I was enjoying racing. I was enjoying racing with my team!
It is this feeling that I want to experience again, it’s that same feeling that I tap in to for motivation to get out of bed when the alarm goes off to train in the dark and the frost. Ultimately nothing has changed; the self-doubts that torment me are based on truths. I will always be too much of something and not enough of something else but I will always give my all in everything I do. That will be enough.