My Dreams Are Bigger Than My Ability…Of Course I’m Scared

August 16, 2012



In the space of Facebook comments and text messages, sometimes people take my updates at face value.  I dream about things beyond my ability or beyond what I’ve done so far and it scares me deeply- yet you can’t convey the fact that conviction and fear of failure are often simple bedfellows in a 140 character tweet or a simple blog post.

Three months ago, I made the decision to move back to California.  I also made the decision to start running.  I fell in love with races, I fell in love with horizons I hadn’t even seen yet with my own eyes in such a long time- the long off horizons of dreams not yet realized.  It’s been exciting-  just like when you fall in love with a person, the beginning is always exciting and new…before the “OH SHIT” factor sets in, it’s all possibilities.

I have a tendency to reach for things, crazy things.  Life is short.  Be completely crazy.  Raise money for charity: water, totally crazy.  Decide to pack up and head west, yep, crazy.  Sign up for a half marathon and then dream of running a full marathon (that’s 26.2 miles, omg)  Let yourself see “where things go” in your love life, your personal life, in your body, your mind, what you have to give- again, INSANE.

One of my favorite things is in life is to defy what’s possible.  I wish I could say “what’s possible” includes winning Olympic Medals or walking on Mars- but truly, there’s something more powerful.  Sadly, “what’s possible” doesn’t even get that far- it doesn’t defy time or space, it’s simply the space we have trapped our abilities within our own heads.  We placed boundaries on ourselves from childhood that are ridiculously stupid-  “I’m not beautiful.” “I’m not strong,” “I could never give it all up and start over.”


Each of us carries around the burden of the boundaries we set on ourselves.  It feels lighter to cast them off and look at your naked self- but it’s scary as hell.

Of course, there are two sides of boundaries-  the boundaries that keep us trapped inside, and the boundaries that tell us that parts of ourselves are off limits.


A few months ago, I told myself I was healthy.  I was fine- no questions asked. I said “You don’t need to be a marathon runner to look great or be healthy.” That’s so true, you can be anybody you want to be and be your best self.  You can be healthy in a variety of shapes and sizes, but truth was, I wasn’t.  I had put up a boundary up around myself that getting real with my abilities and truly owning this body, reclaiming it, was off limits.

I can’t even tell you how many times I could “run if I wanted to,” I just didn’t want to.  There is something completely shitty and totally amazing about admitting when you actually take time to face the little white lies you tell yourself and face your truth.  There is no better evidence that you’ve lying to yourself to protect your ego when you realize you can’t touch your toes (and it bothers you) and that you’ve signed up for a race beyond your current ability.

Sure, without walls, egos get totally bruised- but at least you can take the energy devoted to boundary building to actually doing something.  

There are days when facing your truth hurts like hell.  Then you come out the other side of it with less shallow ego and more true grit to back it up.


I set up a wall around assumptions I didn’t want to touch.  The boundaries I created kept me from examining that I really wasn’t as in good shape as I thought, that I wasn’t quite happy with how I looked or felt.  I put up that wall so I didn’t have to look beyond it, I could just assume my self-image and my physical capabilities were “fine.”   If you don’t see it, it ain’t there! HA!



Right now is a time of great transition and a healthy dose of challenge.  I’ve torn down boundaries that I thought kept me safe, but in truth, just kept me in denial.




There is nothing more vulnerable than admitting you’re naked without boundaries.  You have to examine your boundaries every time you apply for jobs, train for a new goal, make decisions to embrace and reject, to hold on and to move on.  You have to tear down the boundaries that are holding you back and you have to give yourself ample time to attack the boundaries you’re desperately clinging to for security.


So, in the array of tweets, Facebook posts and email updates to the people in my life- everything looks rosy from the outside.  Hell, it even looks rosy to me when I write them, I’m excited by new challenges and blazing new trails.  I’m frustrated, curious, excited and exhilarated and yes, exhausted simultaneously.

I started writing this post because I knew it was time to admit that the honeymoon phase is over, it’s loving dedication at this point.  I’m still hunting for a job that will fulfill me, training for my half marathon and chasing the sunset by heading west in over a week- I’m a bit overwhelmed but ready.

I started writing this post to say those things, but I finish it to say that if you’re feeling these things too- you’re not alone.  Don’t judge your insides by someone’s outsides.  In the abbreviated space of a tweet or the happy pictures on Facebook, there’s a lot that can’t be said.  Many of us are still unfinished.

If you’re churning, changing and challenging and questioning, you’re in good company.  Keep going.

21 comments so far.

21 responses to “My Dreams Are Bigger Than My Ability…Of Course I’m Scared”

  1. Lea says:

    I just found your blog! LOVE IT! Good luck in California! 🙂

  2. Pattee says:

    Shannyn! I loooove reading your blog. 🙂 It’s so refreshing and real. Wanted to let you know I’m cheering for you, and thank you. I feel encouraged reading this. <3

  3. Mike says:

    Nice piece! Thanks!

  4. Bob says:

    I hate commenting on these things. I feel like I have to say something really profound.

    Don’t make dreams so big that the expectations become unreal, seemingly unattainable. Don’t let your dreams become a source of frustration and a feeling of failure.

    Dream big but have intermediate dreams. Have stepping stones so you can say “Yeah, I can do this, let’s do a little more.” “I’m okay missing this dream because I can continue to grow toward my ultimate dream without it.”

    To me the big dream is to commit to a lifetime of running. Things like run a marathon, run MCM, run New York City Marathon, run Boston, etc. are all dreams to shoot for, but in the big picture they are memorable stops along my route. Maybe I can’t make all the stops, or there are stops I hadn’t thought of before, but doesn’t mean I am not still on the road to my dream.

    Good Running, YMMV

    • Shannyn says:

      Haha, don’t worry about being profound, I appreciate the comment! You are so right and I appreciate all your good advice and insights about running that you share! 🙂

  5. YES! I had been lying to myself for longer than I care to admit that I was “meant” to be 250+ pounds. I didn’t have any immediate health issues (diabetes, high blood pressure, etc.) — that I knew of, anyway — so I convinced myself that it was okay to be obese. Even worse, I even convinced myself that I was “meant” to be that size.

    But then one day you wake up, look in the mirror, and somehow muster the courage to tell yourself that it’s all a lie. And that you’re worth the effort to shoot for the impossible…whether it’s losing weight, moving across the country, or registering for a half marathon.

    I feel the same way about running — I know I have time to train for Disney Princess, but every single time I lace up my sneakers, I have to argue with myself (in my head, not out loud or anything…), that I AM capable of running that distance and that I AM worthy of being out there with all the other runners.

    You’re awesome, and an inspiration…and not because it seems like everything in your life is perfect, but because you have the courage to put yourself out there and do things that are a little bit “crazy.” I know from firsthand experience that there’s nothing nothing in life more terrifying — or rewarding! — than doing something you once thought was impossible!

    • Shannyn says:

      I wish I could give you a big high five or a hug right now… you are so powerful and I feel so thankful someone knows where I’m coming from! Some days, running feels like you’re doing battle with yourself- it challenges more than just physical capabilities but emotional/mental ones as well.

      Loved your comment!

  6. Melissa says:

    Thanks for putting up this post Shannyn. I’m struggling a bit right now, to find work, to figure out some of my goals, etc, so it’s nice to have that bit of a boost. And to know that I’m not the only one struggling a bit.

    Good luck on your move back to California. It’s been quite sunny and warm here lately so I hope that you’re prepared for the heat! 🙂

    • Shannyn says:

      Hey Melissa- I hope your struggles make way for greatness, but I assure you, they will. Struggling and feeling uncomfortable or unsure just means that you’re challenging the norm, demanding more and holding yourself accountable. Be proud and know that better days are on the way…you’re not alone! 🙂

  7. Glad you found running, it is one of those things that is so healing and cathartic for me.. Healing may be a funny word since it’s pushing your body.. but I find that I am so less stressed and more clear after a run. Keep going, and good luck with the job search !!

    • Shannyn says:

      I totally know what you mean! Sure, there are times my body is exhausted or aching, but there’s something that makes it redefine the mind/body connection. Sometimes being “comfortable” is not comfortable at all- working the muscles, pushing yourself and setting scary goals with it all is sometimes more peace than chaos.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  8. I feel like this time in my life is for transitioning as well. This post makes me dig deeper within. I love it!

  9. Rachel says:

    I’ve enjoyed reading your blog for a while! Your words are very powerful and truthful. I want to run marathons too, but I don’t… yet. I let my feelings of worth regarding my job prevent me. I’ve been searching for a teaching job all summer. I worked at a camp and I’ve been going on interviews. Yesterday I had a great interview. I hope to hear on Monday! I’ve been chasing my dreams for years… at times, achieving aspects, then other times running away. I’m not running away anymore, instead I’m running towards them! I have a cool side project I’m working on that I think I’ll email you about. So look for that 🙂

    I have other plans to for work online. I’d love to talk with you about website design too!


    • Shannyn says:

      Hi Rachel- I love your blog title. Good luck on your job interview! I love your outlook- running towards your goals, both literally and figuratively. 🙂 Good luck and keep doing what you do!

  10. I’ve been an avid exerciser forever, and the majority of the time I still have that internal argument about whether or not I really feel like doing it. But luckily the habit has taken over, and I know I feel much worse if I don’t do it. Eventually it will just sink into your life. 🙂 Good luck with the move! Remember to contact me if you need a (another) friend out here!

  11. Jennifer M. says:

    Oh I love this! Such inspiring advice!! Thank you! It’s so true that often our greatest hinderances come from that little voice in our head that tells us we aren’t good enough or smart enough or pretty enough to try something.

  12. Parthenia Jones says:

    What a beautiful article! Such a lovely attitude. Keep it up!

  13. Mary G. says:

    There’s nothing wrong with being scared. It just means you are heading for something big. Very inspiring indeed. Looking forward to more of your stories.


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