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For me, 2015 was the year I ran my first half marathon. I wasn’t certain I could do it, but sheer stubbornness and perseverance dragged me through. Even at the 11 mile mark, when my legs were growing numb and my mind was becoming less convinced that the finish line existed, I simply gritted my teeth and prayed for the strength to carry on.
But then again, realistically, there was never much of a chance that I wouldn’t get to the end somehow. You see, I get a kick out of pushing my body and seeing the amazing things it can do! And when I set my mind on something you can usually guarantee I’ll find a way to do it.
I’ve always been determined to reach my goal, but that wasn’t always healthy! In 2009 I was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa – an illness which eventually meant I was hospitalised for 9 months. For several years I also struggled with depression and anxiety, and self-harmed as the only way I could think of to vent my frustration at what I thought was my own failure to be thin enough, pretty enough, athletic enough, academic enough or good enough in any way. I over-exercised even when I didn’t have the energy, starved myself if the numbers on the scales weren’t dropping quickly enough and craved the pain of cutting my skin because for an instant it distracted me from the chaos of my own mind. I didn’t just push my body to challenge myself, I forced it far beyond its healthy capabilities until it almost reached breaking point. I persevered for too long in my deadly pursuit of perfection!
But perseverance is part of who I am – the person I’m now determined to love and embrace every day! In my past I channelled it into self-destruction, but that doesn’t make it destructive in itself. I have a choice of how I use it, and I choose to use it for good! Now I use it to inspire the young people I work with, to fundraise for a cause I’m passionate about, to raise awareness of the illnesses I suffered from and to encourage people that recovery is possible. I firmly believe that even the worst things in my past have helped form who I am, and so instead of letting them get me down I make a conscious decision to use those experiences to do something positive.
And so I continue to live a life of perseverance. But I no longer do it to prove myself. I no longer do it to punish myself for what I see as inadequacy. I no longer do it to become something I’m not. I do it to continue becoming the person I’m meant to be, and the best I can possibly be.
I know the title says ‘don’t let your past affect your future’, but in fact I want you to let it do exactly that – just in a positive way rather than a negative way! There may be things you don’t like about your past – mistakes you’ve made, or painful memories – but they all played a part in making you who you are now, and they can all be turned into something good! You have the choice to wallow in regret or to be shaped for the better.
How will you let your past affect your present?
Esther works at Sion Community working with national schools. Interesting fact whilst she was at Uni in Oxford she rowed from Oxford to London to raise money for beat. She loves to bake and blog!