run your own fucking marathon: how to deal with jealousy

April 11, 2013 | 117 Comments


I’ve spent almost 38 years jealous of anything that breathes.

I now see how owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do. —Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

Eight years ago I trained for a half marathon with a runner who was faster than me. What was an easy pace for her, left me barely able to manage my end of the conversation during our long Sunday runs. But every Sunday she ran with me and every Sunday I ignored my program pace to keep up.

On race day I ran with her until she had to use the washroom at kilometer eight. While she shuffled ahead to the port-o-potty, I took a walk break. I fired back up when I passed the port-o-potty, knowing she’d catch up. I spent the next two kilometers waiting for her to reappear, puzzled—and somewhat smug—she hadn’t yet.

And then the course merged onto a wee island. I saw her coming towards me having completed the loop I still needed to run.

She was two kilometers ahead at a faster pace. We exchanged breathy hellos while shame got to work cocooning me like something from a comic book. Thick and black.

Eleven kilometers to run and 29 years worth of hateful thoughts showed up to neener-neener my ass to the finish line. You ridiculous piece of shit. You thought you could do this? Hilarious! You’re a joke.

And if you think I’m dysfunctional now? Eight years ago I had roughly zero in my toolbox to work my way out of that hostile darkness.

I finished the race eight minutes after my goal time. Which maybe sounds great to a non-runner’s ear, but it was a fail in my books.

It was days until I could appreciate what I’d accomplished. I ran 21 kilometers in 2:08 minutes, you guys. I ran the race. A long, hard racy race. I did that. I showed up and I ran.

Lesson learned, right?

HA. You’re funny.

To be depressed is to constantly have his very calm, very rational voice whispering in your ear, telling you how awful and worthless you are. It’s being trapped inside an airless glass room, watching everyone around you pile up success after success while you can barely button your shirt or tie your shoes. It’s knowing that you are not capable of doing anything, not one single thing, of value. —Anne Thériault

Anne and her writting burrowed into my heart like that tic at summer camp on my cabin-mate’s back. With less horror and more squealing.

We both struggle with depression, are often overwhelmed by parenting, love writing, and both like jam and cheese on our toast. (If you haven’t tried jam and cheese on your toast, could you, Anne? You’ll love it and then I won’t be a liar. Thanks. You’re a pal.)

It’s probably best we live on oposite ends of the country, because I’d frequently stop in to borrow cups of sugar and milk for my pretend baking just so I could soak in her goodness. Her husband and son would hate me and my husband and daughter would miss me and my pretend baking.

Anne challenges my thinking, opens my already wide open heart, makes me giggle and cry, and writes away some of my shame and loneliness. She’s brilliant, charming, generous and intensely talented.

I love Anne. Like, I really, really love her!

So imagine my shame when jealousy replaced the oxygen in my blood and I could taste it with every swallow, sharp and hot like stray wasabi. Her world imploded with writerly love and recognition. Viral posts, famous-people retweets, all the Facebook fan page likes. (Oh, that’s where they went!) My response was ugly, covetous, jealous, gremlin yuck.

You ridiculous piece of shit. You thought you could do this? Hilarious! You’re a joke. Oh, and PS—you’re an ugly friend.

Anne has gone ahead and I still have the whole island loop to run at my slower pace. I was swallowed up, wondering what the point might be. Why bother? No one cares if I finish this fucking marathon. No one cares if I write another word.

I’ll never be as good as Anne. I’ll never be as good as running maven McFasty Pants. I’ll never be as good as you or you or you. Nope. Not you either.

Shannon, stop! Right, right. I don’t need to be as good as you or you or you. Nope not even you. I need to be as good as me.

This year is the first time I’ve begun to untangle myself from the belief that I am fundamentally flawed. Unloveable. Made wrong. Damaged. Fucked up. Broken.

You’re not broken (and you don’t need to be fixed): We all develop our own ways of coping with the world we grow up in. Some of these ways are more beneficial than others but at the core of these behaviours is a need for self-protection, not broken-ness. There isn’t going to be a time when you are “fixed” or an “ideal” version of yourself: living authentically involves continuing to grow. —Hanna Braime

Last week I subbed in a grade two classroom. I read the kids a book called Nightsong about a bat who leaves his mother for the first time to find his way in the darkness. Students had to write what they thought the author’s message might be. One little dude brought me his paper and it said, “Don’t be afraid!” And I was all “Yeah, good job, little dude.”

And before he reached his desk, I called out, “Wait a minute! Sometimes we’re afraid and jealous and discouraged and anxious and sad and lonely. The message shouldn’t be: don’t feel your feelings, but feel them with courage!” Best. Sub. Ever.

Icky thoughts and feelings don’t prove I’m an asshole; they prove I’m human. They prove I’m alive. The more I tried to stop feeling jealous of McFasty Pants and Anne, the more clingy my shame became and the deeper I spiraled.

I was trying to suppress and control my feelings, because I was afraid thinking or feeling xyz equaled Shannon is bad. If I could have acknowledge it, named it, and observed it like a scientist, maybe there would have been less panicky arm flailing. I wouldn’t have gotten so tangled, blurring the line between what I think and feel and who I am.

It’s kneejerk for us to shoo bad feelings away—even ones that don’t belong to us. This morning Steve called on his way to work. After sharing some bummed-out thoughts, he responded, “Don’t be discouraged!” Steve’s a super thoughtful, compassionate dude, but this habit is not helpful!

So, I’m gonna allow myself to sit with Discouraged. Oh hai, Discouraged! I didn’t hear you come in. Need a hug? I’m gonna be over here breathing and crossing things off my to-do list, okay? You’re a feeling, and my new policy is feelings don’t get leadership roles. Yes, I know, but I reassigned jealousy last week, too. She still checks in (more than she needs to), but she’s not in charge. But I see you, okay?

Steve is terrified of spiders. Terrified. During the unpacking stage of our last two moves, I heard squeals and crashing from the basement, followed by a squeaky, high-pitched, “SPIDER!”

Well, that’s me and less-desirable feelings. “JEALOUSY! Cancelling all friendships with a full refund! Doomed! Doooooomed!”

Everyone. Calm. Down. It’s a spider feeling.

A feeling I’ll likely always feel to some degree. So, acceptance and patience it is!

Practicing courage, compassion, and connection in our daily lives is how we cultivate worthiness. —Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

Oh look—Anne has 42,548 new followers on Twitter this morning! Okay. Oh, yep. Here she comes. Hi, Jealousy! Oh, we’re hugging? Okay. Yes. Oh you’re so excited to see me again even though it’s only been 4.5 nanoseconds. Okay, more hugging! It’s not that I don’t want to schlep you and Kleenex around the house again today, but I’ve got some doing to do. Sure, you can stay if that’s what you need, but check your updated roles and responsibilities on the fridge, mmk? 

I’ll be the crazy lady on the West Coast taking her shadow for coffee in between all the things I do that I’m really great at. Like loving my friends and running my own marathons.

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Join the conversation

  • Ashley

    You are so beautiful. I love your honesty, Shannon. xo

    • Shannon

      Thanks, Ashley. I’m working on seeing what you see. :)

  • Jennie

    Dude, it takes a lot of courage to own your warts. To publicly admit to them with candour, courage, and good humour, in your own distinctive frank amazing voice, and to acknowledge them: that’s hard, and you just did an amazing job of it.

    I love your writing. I love what it shows me of your self.

    Keep running your own race. You’re a champ.

    • Shannon

      Thanks, Jennie. I like doing life with you. I hope we get to hang some day. I have really great thoughts about you, lady. :)

      • Jennie

        I had some other thoughts about jealousy!

        It’s something I’ve struggled with, watching my friends and co-workers get pregnant and have babies—something I wanted desperately, but haven’t been able to do. Working in publishing, surrounded by women my own age, all of whom seem to be able to manage to do something that escaped me has been pretty heartbreaking. My boss sent around a scan of her ultrasound. A few weeks later, my least-favourite co-worker told us she was expecting. Another co-worker. Baby shower after baby shower. Then, late one night, at a dance event, over ice cream and after I told them about my miscarriage, my ex and the woman for whom he dumped me (we’re friend now, it’s all good), told me that they had thought she was really sick with some sort of GI thing. Turned out that she was unexpectedly, joyfully, pregnant.

        I wouldn’t have wanted to marry him. I’m glad they’re happy. And I knew she had about given up on her dreams of motherhood and was overjoyed. And I was, and am, glad for them.

        And probably nobody else could hear the voice deep inside me wailing “Whhhyyyyyyyy??????? Whhhhhhyyyy not meeeeeeee?????”

        The answer, of course, is “because.” But that’s neither here nor there, really. It wouldn’t matter if the answer was “becaus she’s a nicer person/would be a better mother/has a better shaped uterus/I don’t even know.” The truth is, there’s no pot of pregnancy with only a limited number of pregnancies in it. Her pregnancy, the pregnancies of all the other women around me, had zero effect on my own chances of becoming a mother.

        They didn’t improve them, either. Sadly for me, pregnancy isn’t really contagious.

        (I managed pretty well remembering this until G’s mom got pregnant with his sister. The green-eyed monster got me pretty bad with that one, I think because I made this woman for whom I have very few friendly feelings the recipient of all the envy I wasn’t letting myself feel about my friends. I still have a really difficult time being around her and G’s sister. Even with all my fine logic and level-headedness, and my understanding that this baby, too, did not diminish the number of babies in the non-existant pregnancy pot. So I’m just accepting that I’m jealous of G’s mom for being able to have babies when I can’t, and not spending any time with her that I can avoid, which is okay because I don’t like her anyway.

        And it occurs to me that “there’s no pregnancy pot, with only a limited number of pregnancies,” means the same thing, more or less, as “run your own fucking marathon.” Everyone else’s babies didn’t diminish the supply for me. Anne’s writerly success has zero effect on your odds of success.

        So, if you do find that you can’t deal with the envy, I recommend finding someone you don’t actually like to be envious of. At least that way you’re unlikely to poison a relationship you value ;-p.

        • Shannon

          Thanks for sharing all of this, Jennie. I was on the other side of the baby coin with some friends who tried and tried and tried. That’s tough stuff. It’s amazing how you’ve chosen to journey through it. Hugs to you.

          For a few days, I really thought I was going to ruin my friendship with Anne if I couldn’t get what I was feeling under control. But I feel a lot more level about it. And I feel pretty fortunate to be in the bleachers and back stage for some of what’s happening for her. She’s pretty easy to cheer on.

          I’m in a better space. And if I get to that bad place again, I have some systems to work through it more quickly and hopefully, less painfully.

          But, yes, you are a wise woman. Surround myself with successful people I don’t care for all that much. Got it. Hee!

          • Jennie

            Well, maybe one or two successful people whom you don’t care about. Just to balance things out. ;-P.

  • A. Mary Murphy

    There’s some strange thing that happens for me when I acknowledge the things that trouble me but are part of me. Somehow, they are disempowered. I’m able to think, “Oh yeah–that’s what’s happening” whether it’s the perfectionism or jealousy or self-doubt or or or. And really, I have embraced my perfectionism. It helps me not to apply it to others. Thanks for letting me know I’m not the only person I know who eats myself alive half the time.

    • Shannon

      Mary! I was thinking about you this week. It’s good to have your voice in my head again.

      I’m happy to have found a strategy to quiet the disquiet. Being human is hard. I’m coming back as a dog.

      Thanks for sharing your stuff, too.

  • Stacey

    Oh hello YOU!
    Just so’s you know, I’m getting outta my jammies RIGHT NOW to run up to your house, ring your doorbell and clobber you with a big ol’ bear hug. And then, just as quickly as that, run back home to put my PJ’s back on.
    Um, jk. (I don’t know where you live and that’s prolly for the best sister.)
    Why do I feel like doing this? BECAUSE YOU RAWK. Your voice is fan-fucking-tastic missy and because you embrace transparency with such real warmth and style.
    So… MWAH!
    Awesome post and awesome job wrestling this one to the ground.

    • Shannon

      HA! You’re great. I think we’re going to be good pals. Can’t wait to meet you. Thanks for the love. And nudity.


  • Stacey

    Hm. That sounds like I theoretically just ran nude through the streets.
    But kinda creepy… LOL

  • Stacie

    We should all do things at our own pace!

    • Shannon


  • Kate

    I read this and thought you were talking about me- well, except for the running part. Depression is a tricky master. I will definitely be stopping by again. Thanks so much for sharing your story.

    • Shannon

      It’s amazing when someone gets in your head, hey? I love connecting that way.

      Thanks for reading. xo

  • Louise Ducote

    Hey, you could have impressed me by saying, “I ran a hundred yards!” But running for over two hours without dying? And then living to write about it? Wow!

    • Shannon

      Well in THAT case… I did a full marathon, too. ;)

  • Celeste

    Holy shit this was the most badass thing I have read in a long time. Thank you so much for sharing.

    • Shannon

      Badass. Heh. I don’t think I’ve ever been called badass. I’ll take it! Thanks. xo

  • Dawn Beronilla

    THIS: “Icky thoughts and feelings don’t prove I’m an asshole; they prove I’m human.”
    But also? This: McFasty Pants.
    The name McFasty Pants made me laugh out loud!

    You are such a wonderfully honest person, Shannon. I love reading your posts.

    • Shannon

      I think you’re pretty great yourself, Dawn. <3

  • Michelle Longo

    I really needed to read this today. Thank you for sharing such an honest post. I’m going to go write “I needed to be as good as me” on a post-it and stick it on my desk so I can read it every day.

    • Shannon

      I need that post-it, too. Good idea!

  • Natalie the Singingfool

    Um, yes, me too. Comparison is my bread and butter, and I never measure up. I am trying with all my might to run my own fucking marathon, because jealousy can destroy a person.

    • Shannon

      And friendships! I’m lucky Anne still hearts me.

  • Liz

    OMG. The jealousy – I have felt every feel you’ve talked about here, especially in regards to Anne, who I am absolutely fucking privileged to know IRL. It’s so hard not to feel jealous of people who just for whatever reason get their lucky break. Anne has a talent I don’t have and probably will never have. And I have to find my own niche. I’m starting to embrace that – to rebrand myself, to to talk about things important to me, and to try not to be her shadow and be like her. Anne is herself, I am myself. And I am so, so proud of her for her success, even when the Jealousy Monster wants me to feel shitty. It’s okay to feel shitty, and then it’s time to run your own damn marathon.


  • Bee

    Omg, I love this post, especially because I could have written it. Not about a friend, but about my younger sister. I love her, but yes, often, I’m jealous of her. I’m working really hard on being happy with what I have, because what I have is good. I’m so ashamed of feeling jealous.

    • Shannon

      See! I don’t think we need to feel ashamed. It’s just a feeling. We just gotta respond to it better. No shame and no wallowing. Acknowledge and move on! XO

  • Ice Scream Mama

    so, uh, well, i’m really jealous of your awesome writing and that you ran a 1/2 marathon, so i just might be pretend baking and stop by for some sugar. :)

    • Shannon

      Ha!You’re adorbs. xo

  • Jamie@SouthMainMuse

    Well, your running analogy hit me. I have been athlete all my life and in mid-age found a group of friends who ran together and did triathlons together. No matter how much a trained, I always did average. Finished slightly above mid-pack in my age group at best. Some of our band were just gifted like your friend. When I finally realized life wasn’t a competition, I could enjoy going out and participating. Same with writing. We all have different strengths. Just do what you do and do it well. As a first time reader, I think you have a very strong voice and that’s a natural gift.

    • Shannon

      It’s hard to stay on your own course. Jealousy is such a complex emotion. I wanna study it!

      Thanks for your kind words.

  • Peach

    Heart you. Such good, good stuff in here. Thank you for being you and giving us your gift. Xox

    • Shannon

      Oh, you’re my fave. Always with the word hugging. <3

  • Allison

    A couple things:

    – “Since I have the kind of personality that tends to puke its life story onto your shiny shoes (sorry!) within the first hour of meeting you, the idea of having my very own space on the internet to talk about ME was glorious.”

    I love you already.

    – You quoted Brene Brown. I crush on Brene Brown in a big, bad way, and sometimes toy with the idea of returning to my alma mater (U of Houston) for a Masters/PhD in Social Work JUST SO I CAN WORK WITH HER.

    I’m adding your RSS feed and liking your facebook page.

    • Shannon

      Allison! Hi. Thanks for reading and leaving such nice words behind you. Working with BB would be AMAZING. I vote: do it! :)

  • Sue

    Heh. So I was reading up to the bit where you said, “Last week I subbed in a grade 2 classroom.” And right in on time, like the tide, was that stupid fucking voice. “Oh, see? One more person who actually DOES SOMETHING for a job that’s not sitting typing shit from audio in front of a computer! Makes you one seven billionth bit more of a loser!”

    Sigh. It’s so boring! I think that’s the bit that is slowly weaning me off this crap. It’s so BOOOOOOOORING!!!!

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and feelings. It so helps reading others’ experiences.

    • Shannon

      I don’t sub often, Sue. I quit teaching full time just after Christmas to start a business. Do you mean jealousy is boring? Or transcribing (I’m assuming that’s what you mean by typing shit from audio?) is boring?

      Thanks for reading!

      • Sue

        Jealousy is boring! I mean, what’s in there to keep you there except fueling the self-hatred? There’s no flowers there. It’s all asphalt.

        But as boring as jealousy is, it could never be as boring as transcribing!

        Well done on starting a new business and I am glad I have found your blog :)

  • Julie

    I just found your blog from The Stretch for Something Beautiful, and you’re awesome :D

    • Shannon

      Aw, hey–thanks for taking the time to say so! <3

  • Sarah – MoreThanYourAverageMom

    Hey Shannon,
    I love this post. I’ve recently started running with a bunch of marathon/half marathon trainers and always feel worthless next to their fit and endurance. Loved the post as it truly resonates with me recently. I’m only “training” for a 5k, but home to one day work up to a half.

    Congrats on getting off your ass and finishing the race. It’s a lot more than many of us did that day!

    • Shannon

      Sarah–thank you! Yeah. It’s a big deal I finished. I’m pretty proud of me. I wish I could have been more present for myself then, but I’m loving myself a little better every day.

      Way to go with your running! No worthlessness–just courage and passion. Go you!

  • Christy

    Hey Shannon, One link led me to another to another, then I was fortunate enough to land here, yay!

    If you’re ever in Texas, come run with me, I’ll make you feel faster than McFasty in new superpowered running shoes! OMG, I’m such a turtle, my first half was like 3:01, then I was stoked to get it to 2:30. It’s all relative, all of it. The jealousy you feel (felt), someone could be feeling about you (she’s so funny, she’s got all these comments, she ran a 2:08 half and thinks that was slow!)… The only competition is with ourselves. We come into life by ourselves, we leave by ourselves, it’s all part of our journey–we each have different lessons to learn while we’re here. At least, that’s how I like to think about it.

    Glad to have found your site! Thanks for your honesty and candor, Christy

    • Shannon

      Mmm. These are wise words, Christy. Coming into and leaving life ourselves. I like that. I’ll keep that in my noggin for sure.

      I’m glad you found me, too. :)

  • Christina

    “Icky thoughts and feelings don’t prove I’m an asshole; they prove I’m human. They prove I’m alive.”

    Shannon, I teach Creative Writing to college students, and I would love to get you in as a guest speaker. I think you are what being a writer is all about. Gosh, woman, you can write!

    • Shannon

      I tried emailing you, Christina. Not sure if you got it? This sounds fun! Are you in Vancouver?

    • Shannon

      I tried sending you an email, but I never heard back. Check your spammy spam!

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