Who inspires you?

I like to believe that I’m not competitive. Sure, I like winning—but I’d rather we all just get along and sing camp songs. My husband used to disagree with this perception of myself, seeing me as “extremely competitive”, but I’ve rescued him from that misplaced belief.

Here’s how I convinced him. I’m not competitive; I’m determined. It’s not about winning, it’s about doing what I said I was going to do—benchmarking my performance to my abilities.  My parents must be so proud—how many times do parents and teachers say “Just do your best, don’t compare yourself to anyone else”?  While I’d like to say it’s because I’m perfect, it’s primarily that have no filter and end up feeling terrible for the people I beat.

I was pondering the distinction between competition and determination during the 16 mile bike ride of a triathlon I participated in this weekend. As a strong swimmer, I started off the bike at the front of the pack. As I cycled merrily along, several guys passed me and I just smiled and waved. Proving that I’m not competitive! But then a female came up on me and I thought, “I can do that”, and kicked my effort up a notch. Was I competitive after all? I don’t think so. Several other females passed me that I felt no desire to keep pace with—they were too crazy fast. It wasn’t about beating the girl; it was about finding someone who realistically challenged me.

You can argue this distinction with me later—but for now go along with me to see how this applies to “real life”. 

I do a lot of reading, particularly in the mental health field. I’ve found a lot of good resources out there, but one particular author, Therese Borchard, inspired me and my decision to write. We have a lot in common—she’s a Christian, struggles with bipolar disorder, and a wonderful plethora of other delightful challenges. When you read her writing, you feel like you are being allowed the privilege of taking a journey with a friend. In her book and blog, she strikes a balance between being entertaining, hopeful, and inspiring, but at the same time being realistic, vulnerable, and honest about the messy parts of mental illness.

While reading her book, “Beyond Blue” gave me a lot of great advice for dealing with my own illness, its most lasting impact was making me go “I can do that!”. I can use writing and my personal story to raise awareness for mental illness.

My husband likes to read biographies about famous business and historical figures such as Warren Buffett and Steve Jobs. He says that he learns a lot from them and they “inspire” him to be better. Frankly, all I learn is that you can accomplish a heck of a lot if you can survive on less than five hours of sleep a night. 

I don’t have that ability. To keep my mood stable I need to sleep at least 7.5 – 8.5 hours of sleep a night. A lot of my time is dedicated to other necessary things such as therapy, doctors’ appointments, yoga, thought correction, etc.—I mean even taking all my meds in the morning runs close to a half hour. I can’t even imagine imitating these “successful” people. But Therese’s book was refreshing. Here was someone I respected who had similar limitations and brain functions as me. Finally someone who made me realistically say, “I can do that!”

AS I’ve started writing, I’m sure that some aspects of my writing style are similar to hers, particularly in her older blogs. After all, I like to think I’m also witty and insightful. But despite some elements of hers that I might imitate, my voice is also present. After all, my favorite element of her style is her personal tone, the ability to make your reader feel like they know you and are just chatting with an old friend over slushies and ice cream. 

As I continue to read and write, I’m sure other authors and books will continue to shape and influence my tone. But one thing I will not forget from her writing is to be myself. To be open about my flaws, my strengths, my limitations, my preferences, my successes, my struggles. I hope my readers can relate to me that way, and I might inspire someone else to say, “I can do that”.

Not a typical post for me—but a bit of insight into my story.  So what about you? Who is the person in your life that you might want to imitate? Are you like Sidney and find inspiration in famous well-known figures? Or are you more likely to find inspiration in those similar to you?

Oh and if you’re interested in reading any of Therese’s stuff check it out here: http://blog.beliefnet.com/beyondblue/2010/12/the-12-bipolar-days-of-christm.html (this is a link to a post that makes me smile!)

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