The rally of others behind a simple feeling of self-doubt and unworthiness is part of what makes our humanity so beautiful to participate in.

I have watched young athletes for years do this personally. I have taught them how to change the words internally, how to re-write and re-wire, how to refocus on the positive and reframe those inner thoughts and conversations to reflect only positive self-love.

Yet, the hardest part of doing that is teaching how to block out the negativity of others. How to reframe and refocus after something negative that was external. Something we had no control over. We often use words like “Shake it off” or “Don’t pay attention to them, they are…” And we fill in the blank with other words we can use to describe small-mindedness as well as those who put others down. We call them bullies and we take a righteous stand against those who are being put down, while secretly wondering if it’s any different from the self-bullying we all do from time to time but keep quiet about.

I remember seeing bullying in middle school and really being aware of how those people felt and how hurt they looked. I remember sitting quietly praying that no one would say something that hurtful to me. I remember just wanting to fit in. Often times I felt like maybe I didn’t. But as I look back now I wonder what we have all been trying to “fit into.” A mold that looks and acts like others? A kind of societal norm that keeps us needing to be like everyone else…? I realize now that I never wanted to stand out. And yet, I am unique and different and not like anyone else. None of us are. So there is the moment when we need to define how to treat others… What kindness looks like and how we can love and accept and not put down. Because this world needs more people who love and accept.

I am a part of a running challenge that  you team up with a couple other runners/walkers to try to log 2016 miles over the course of the year. I love the community of the Facebook page and the opportunities to connect with others who are doing the same. It’s inspiring and motivating, and pushes me to get out and put my miles in. Last year I did the same… I never was a runner before, but last year I put 825 miles on these feet. I ran a ten mile race and a half marathon as well as 20 other 5k races throughout the year. I became a runner. I started to appreciate other runners. All reasons, all ages, all shapes and sizes. I realized running didn’t discriminate. Anyone can do it. And because I now know how hard some of those days pounding the pavement can be, those who hit the pavement at all have a special place in my heart.

It was in this Facebook group that I came across a post by a woman who wanted to share her story of her morning run. It was February 2nd and I was sipping my coffee as I read it.
She was out for her run and two other runners approached her and she heard one of them day “See that fat girl in red? You don’t want to become like that. She’s probably ugly too.” And then they passed her and the one said “See, told you.” She assumed they thought she couldn’t hear them as she had her headphones in. But she heard. Loud and clear. And in that moment she turned back around and went to her car. And her last line of her post questioned why at the age of 37 did she still let people get to her. Well, because truthfully it doesn’t matter how old we are…or how young. Bullying hurts to the core.

I wanted to reach through the screen and hug her. Apparently others in the group did too. In just a few hours, over 1100 comments appeared in response. HUNDREDS of people wore red and dedicated their miles the next day to Jennifer. I did. In fact I wasn’t feeling like running all week. It moved me out the door to put some miles in for her. Because I don’t believe anyone deserves to be treated that way. And I believe that when we stand together, we are so much more powerful than two people who carry negativity.

Our words are powerful. How we say them, what we say and to whom. Both internally and externally, Our words about others and about ourselves matter. We don’t soon forget. They can linger, and sting and wrench the heart. Small words, long sentences… We can’t strike them from our ears and minds and hearts. We can’t often forget when they hurt. Choose your words kindly. Remember Jennifer. And remember what happens when over a thousand people stand up to two. Remember what happens when words create a movement.

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