For me, one of the biggest challenges of roller derby is letting go of a lot of anxiety. I spend a LOT of time worrying about what people are thinking of me, or if I am going to make a fool of myself. This anxiety has prevented me from doing many things. In fact, prior to derby, I had never stuck out an activity for more than a few months because the anxiety always ended up discouraging me from doing anything.
I am proud of myself for sticking with derby for this long, and I credit the positive influences of derby for helping to keep me on track, but my anxiety has had a major impact on my ability to progress. I often don’t give 100% effort, or push beyond my comfort zone because I am afraid of looking silly. Despite paying for two practices a week for the past 9 months (one is a Freshie practice and one is a league practice), I only went to my first league practice yesterday. Fear of being the slowest, the worst, having everyone’s attention on me and thinking terrible things about me prevented me from going before.
And you know what? Going to that practice was the best decision I’ve made.
I was the only freshie at yesterday’s league practice, and I’m more like ‘day old’ meat, which means I know all the other girls, and I have a few more skills than the newest intake. This meant that I really got to skate with the more experienced girls, and they didn’t hold back. I got pushed around and knocked over and bruised. I also got tons of encouragement, applause and kind words. Despite being the slowest at 25 in 5, I scored my best yet at 21, and the other women shared my excitement (It was a 3.5 lap gain).
I didn’t let go of my anxiety entirely. Being the only freshie meant I was basically automatically the weakest person at the practice. But instead of letting the anxiety beat me, I channeled it. Instead of “I’m going to be the worst, and everyone is going to judge me,” I began to think “I am not the best, but I need to work hard so I don’t let my team down.” I didn’t want to burden the other girls, or prevent them from getting the most out of the drills, so I pushed myself to my absolute limits, and sometimes beyond.
I have two diagnosed anxiety disorders. This makes life, and especially derby, difficult for me sometimes. But EVERYONE has anxiety sometimes, and I have read and heard of other freshies, especially fat freshies, vocalizing that anxiety. I think it is important to let some of that anxiety go when we can, but when its still lingering we can focus on ways to channel it into more productive thoughts, the kind that push us beyond our comfort zone into a place where our skills can actually progress.