Mental Toughness and Tenderness

by candy barone Nov 12, 2021
It’s been over 10 years since I challenged my body to really perform at its peak level of performance. This year, alone, I have had two profound opportunities to do just that.
My first experience was in August when I was honored to bring my message and training to a unit in the Army Reserves. Not only was I asked to deliver a keynote presentation and multiple training sessions that opened up a meaningful dialogue around what building high performing small team leadership looks like, I was invited to join in on their field training and obstacle course, as well.
And, what an experience that lended itself to be. I was able to observe how the teams worked together in real time and on an intimate level. I also was given the space to really challenge my own mindset and physical abilities to the max.
We were given 24 total obstacles, to which I completed 21. These were some intense obstacles, to say the least, and really put you in a position to face your fears.
I found myself being challenged in my own limiting beliefs.
My limiting beliefs around what was possible, around what my body was capable of, and in what I was willing to do and the risks I perceived to be associated with it. My fears came racing to the surface full force. I was scared of the obstacles themselves, and in not doing them how I would be judged or criticized for not fully leaning in. I didn’t want the soldiers to see me as a wuss.
I had to assess my own vulnerability and appetite for risk. I was asked to dig deep and question whether I was resisting due to not feeling like the obstacle was safe or simply because it put me in an uncomfortable situation. It’s amazing what shows up when you step into that space,
And, then I did it to myself again.
I challenged myself to complete the Tough Mudder 5K. This is an event that covers 3 miles of trails with 13 difficult obstacles. And, to add to the level of challenge, we had to accomplish this is 41 degrees through mud and muddy water.
What I have learned in all of this is that there is a level of mental toughness and tenderness that is required. That in order to truly tap into our greatness, we must also bring the right mindset to that table and open up space for self-compassion and self-trust.
I found it asked for combination of grit and grace.
And, I realize it asked for me to be vulnerable, to stay open, and to trust. To trust myself, and to trust others around me. For both of these obstacle courses are designed to tap into the power teams. To leverage each others’ strengths and to support each other in our journeys.
They are not intended for the solo ride, but rather one of collaboration and community.
And, I see so many parallels in what is being asked of us in how we show up, how we lead, and how we choose to serve through our passion and gifts. You see leadership, real leadership, is a balance of masculine and feminine energy. It is the way we create harmony in our own mental toughness, grit, vulnerability, trust, and ability to be seen.
There are times when we feel like we are crawling alone through mud, or like we’ve been beaten down on our path. That perhaps we are being forced to crawl through the smallest, tightest spaces in order to move forward. That we are getting knocked around a bit, acclimating hits and bruises time and time again.
And, sometimes we find ourselves lost in that reality.
We get sucked in. We burn out. We tap out. We lose ourselves. We question our value, our worth. We second-guess our ability to lead, to serve. We think we have to go at it alone. And, then we isolate ourselves, we push harder, we hustle and grind more, and we create greater resistance and stress, in the process.
And, all we need to is hold a hand out. To let another pull us up. To know they have our back.
Because when we do, when we trust someone else has got us, we can achieve more than what we try to muscle on our own. I couldn’t have completed either obstacle course without my team. Without those individuals who extended a hand out, who gave me a boost, and who were there to spot me in case I fell. Without these leaders, I would have allowed the fear, the doubts, and my own limited beliefs around my capabilities to hold me back.
By extending my hand, by trusting myself and those who were there to cheer me on and support me, I was able to do more. I was able to push through the fear, through the resistance, and through all the doubts. I was able to see what was, and is, truly possible. And, I was able to rise to both occasions and let myself shine, through mud, and cold, and bruises, and all.
How are you extending a hand out in front of you to allow someone to lift you in your climb? How are you extending a hand back to lift someone else along with you?
Now, as I realize what I am capable of, I have signed up for another Tough Mudder for spring of next year … and, I plan to do the Spartan Sprint, too. What can I say, I am addicted, and love my mud challenges! I also love that I know I can trust in my own potential, and that I can trust in the love, compassion, strength, and support of others in my journey, as well.
With love and deep reverence, Candy

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