How to Catch Up in Life When You Think You're Behind
My favorite day of every elementary school year was field day. I’m sure I’m not alone in this. I especially loved it because I was the fastest girl in my grade. I wasn’t boy crazy, but my friends who were would ask me to chase and catch specific boys for them. This wasn’t without its hazards. Once I remember reaching out to catch a boy and grabbed the zipper on his windbreaker, getting the first and only zipper burn of my life.
Field day arrived and I signed up for every race, sure I would win them all. When we lined up for the first race, I was on the inside lane and was shocked when I saw everyone else starting in front of me. This was so unfair! Why was I starting from behind?
I ran my heart out to catch up, passed other runners on the curve and won the race. Only after it was over did I have a chance to ask why I started behind everyone else. I don’t remember whether my grade school mind understand their answer, but I was especially proud of that blue ribbon.
When you’re in the race of life, do you ever feel like you’re starting from behind? Do you think the people “in front” of you have an unfair advantage? Do you see social media posts and fear everyone else has a head start on getting their lives together and making progress toward their goals?
Whether in your personal or professional life, it’s tempting to see others ahead of you on the track and wonder how you’ll ever catch up or whether you should even try. You fear that even if you run as fast as you’re able, you’ll always be behind.
It’s time to stop being that young girl on the track, fearing you’re going to “lose” the race because you’re starting from behind.
Let’s think about a couple of questions to see if we can gain some perspective and get ourselves out of the starting blocks and into the race.
First, are you really behind?
Just like on the track that day, sometimes we think we’re starting from behind when we’re seeing things not as they are, but as they seem to us. We see people with a bigger house and assume their finances are way ahead of ours. They must have more money in the bank or bring home a bigger paycheck when neither of those things may be true.
If we’re creating a new business, we see someone with a large social media presence and fear we’ll never have that many followers or get that many likes. What we can’t see online, though, is how many people are actually buying from them or paying for their services. You might be ahead of them in terms of sales and not even know it.
The mentality that we’re behind can give us reason to believe that we shouldn’t even start. We see others as too far in front, so we’ll never catch up. Even though they may not be ahead of us, we decide it’s not worth it and stay stuck where we are.
The next time you’re on the starting line and see those people in front of you, realize the distance between them and you is not what it might appear. In fact, there may not be any distance at all.
Second, are you focusing on your finish line or someone else’s?
When you start a race, you know where your finish line is. You can’t always see it, as in a marathon, but you know the distance you’ll be running. In life, our races aren’t like that. Sometimes we know exactly where we’re headed with a measurable goal (such as losing ten pounds), but more often we start running and think we know where we’re headed only to take an unexpected route.
We assume that the person in front of us is headed toward the same finish line as we are and that we’re both running the same direction for the same distance. How often is this true? Not often. Most of the time, the finish line we’re visualizing is nowhere near the finish line those around us are running toward.
This means the fear that someone is ahead of us is completely misplaced. Most likely, they aren’t even running in the same race toward the same finish line.
If you focus on their finish line, you lose sight of yours. If you worry they’ll reach that line before you and you’ll just be a “loser,” again, you may not even start.
Focus on your finish line and you can adapt your strategy to fit your race. And when you’re running your own race, no one can stop you, especially someone who’s not even going the same direction.
Whether you’re starting a new race or in the middle of your marathon, keep these two questions in mind as you evaluate your pace.
If you have bought into the idea that you are starting from behind, evaluate why you believe this. Does this idea come from a belief that other people have an unfair advantage and get preferential treatment? Do you feel this way because you view yourself as less competent and therefore find reasons to justify this belief?
Maybe, unfortunately, someone has put their words of discouragement into your head and you still hear those voices. If a parent has pointed to others who are “successful” and negatively compared you to them, you may struggle to overcome those self-defeating thoughts. You may find it difficult to see yourself as competent to run any race, let alone the challenging race you’ve entered.
Those discouraging voices may also be pointing to other people’s finishing lines and you’ve grown to believe that their race is yours. You are not, I repeat NOT, in the same race as others.
Whether you’ve entered the 100 meter sprint or an ultra-marathon, believe that you are right where you’re supposed to be in your race. That finish line is your finish line. Don’t get distracted by someone else’s.
Let them run their race. You run yours.
And keep your eyes on your lane. Race horses have blinders to keep them from being distracted by everything around them. Put on your blinders and look forward, not at the person on the starting line in front of you, but on that finish line.
And when you’re at sign ups for field day, enter every race you want.
Be the girl who believes she can win all the blue ribbons.
Be the girl who runs her heart out.