Encouragement comes in many forms, including harsh critiques from your father. I had my first experience with this during my time on the high school cross country team. This is not one of those stories of an adorkable book nerd turned varsity super star after an inspirational pep talk about digging deep and figuring out what you’re made of. I am and always have been the nerd, not gifted with any extraordinary athletic ability. I did sports to stay in shape and have fun but had no dreams of crossing the finish line first. Instead, I lettered in academics and band and was happy with my cross country participation award. Being the fabulous supportive parents that they were, my mom and dad spent their saturday mornings driving to my meets and hiking around the courses to cheer me on throughout each race.
However, toward the end of sophomore cross country season, my dad said something to me that completely changed my attitude. He said, “I don’t think you’re really trying.” Out of context, this sounds like a horrific thing for a father to say to his fifteen year old daughter but, let’s be clear, my dad was not bashing my ability or degrading the quality of my character. It was more of an observation about the motive behind one of my after school hobbies. He wasn’t putting me down. He just felt that my other accomplishments were a bit more praise worthy.
Still, it wasn’t the resounding congratulations that I’d grown up accustomed to hearing from my parents and it didn’t sit well with me. For one thing, I was rather pleased with myself for having the drive to even sign up for sports in the first place. I was proactively seeking ways to develop healthy habits and make friends which was considerably more than what many of my classmates opted for. But success isn’t defined by what other people choose to do. I think my dad knew exactly what he was doing when he made that comment.
As previously stated, it didn’t sit well with me and there was but one natural response. “I’ll show you what trying looks like!” I spent the next two seasons giving it my all. I was at every summer practice even when I was the only one there which earned me a commitment award from my coach. He also had the brilliant idea to bribe us all to continue running throughout the summer by giving out t-shirts to whoever ran over one hundred miles during the off season. I rose to the challenge and I still have the t-shirt to prove it. All that summer running paid off when the season started and I shattered all of my personal records. I was still at the back of the pack but I was better than I’d ever been before.
People always say that you shouldn’t care what others think and in many cases, I agree. You should absolutely be your own person and not waste your time trying to imitate anyone else or fit in with the crowd. But sometimes, it’s criticism from others, especially from those we love the most, that drives us to be our best. Sometimes you have to run like you have something to prove. Thanks dad!
Make sure to tell your dad you love him this Father’s Day.