Being the daughter of two, very talented parents, I always felt like I was hiding in the shadow of expectation.
The expectations of others as well as my evolving expectation of self as I grew older.
As a human being, we have this profound ability to compare.
We compare ourselves to the "nth" degree, seeing all possible flaws of our own character, in comparison to someone else we deem more attractive, talented, or successful than ourselves.
We cast a shadow of doubt on our own ability to be a good human.
We punish ourselves for our perceived shortcomings.
We feel lost.
I thought, for a brief time while I've been in the mountain biking scene, that I found my niche. "I'm a mountain biker!" I'd state, almost with a peacock-like puff to my chest. I'm doing great things, being a woman in the industry. I'm a female on a mountain bike, riding a dirt trail, being a badass.
At first, I was content with just that- being a mountain biker. Then things evolved...you start thinking "What kind of mountain biker am I?"
Fast? Technical? Endurance? Sprint?
Am I a climber?
Am I a descender?
Am I strong?
You start reading magazines, following people on social media, and reading books.
Everyone wants to put you into a category. You want to put yourself into a category.
Being able to categorize yourself gives you a sense of belonging- your very own niche in the world of mountain biking. You elicit praise with your skill and technique. How quickly you travel the trails can ignite admiration and possibly envy from your fellow riders. The speed in which you descend the hills or how adeptly you climb them brings you pride, for you know that you are doing something someone else is not able to do as well as you.
I have, over the years, worked on putting myself into a category- not just in mountain biking, but in other areas in life. What did that get me?
All it did was make me feel inadequate because the summary of this is: There is always going to be someone better than you and worse than you.
Sometimes your category might change.
I wondered how my dad categorized himself with what he did well at. If he put a label on himself. If so, did it make him feel more proficient or did it stunt?
The more I tried to fish for a label and compliments of my general mountain biking abilities, the more I felt like a fraud or simply inadequate. I'm not the next Kate Courtney or Rebecca Rusch....so what am I trying to prove?
I realized that my desire for a label was stunting my progress more than anything. I've been told by folks that I'm a "good little climber" ...that I have a good motor on me. However, when it comes to overall speed and sprinting, my game completely falls apart. I might be strong, in a sense, but I'm not as strong as others. People say that you are "good" but what if your "good" is more or less "average"... Is average actually good?
Regardless of where you're at, if you are enjoying what you are doing, then what does it matter?
Let's face it. The bulk majority of us are average riders. We are not on the podium at UCI events, and maybe we don't even podium at local events...or maybe we do. We're not flinging ourselves into the unknown during Crankworx nor are we being featured in a Red Bull documentary. Some folks have time to train hard, ride hard, and can be absolutely amazing on two wheels. Some require less effort to land on the podium while others are finding themselves on long-mile adventures like the Tour Divide. Others do not have the same time to devote to training but ride when they can, however, they want. They might race, they might not. Either way- they are doing something they love. Does someone who rides for sponsors, trains hard on the daily, and competes love the sport more than the person who finds their soul out in the woods on two wheels while simply riding to ride?
You spend much of your life trying to find a "thing" and a place to fit in. Something to be the best at...to excel with...You are reminded daily that there is always someone better or less skilled than you are. You think maybe, just maybe, trying to find your place in the mountain biking world is simply allowing yourself to ride. Just ride. Stop labeling. Stop chasing after something that will not make your #bikelife more enjoyable. Just ride the damn bike and be happy. Do what you love without worrying about how much you are or aren't. BE YOU.
Labels can be a confidence-booster but they can also inhibit growth. Instead of building up, they can tear you down if you do not feel you are worth the title that was given. The whole experience can take away and deter you from having the best experience. A good experience is not riddled with medals, trophies, or compliments....it's feeling the sun on your face, your heart pumping, your lungs burning, and your legs moving. It's feeling free. Feeling strong. It's doing something you love while embracing the challenge- because it's worth it to you.
When you stop searching for a label- you'll find just what you're meant to be.