Any parent reading this will know what an overwhelming responsibility hits you when you see your child for the first time. ‘This is so magical/blessed/beautiful/cosmic/wow’ etc – they’re the first kind of thoughts to flood your mind. Then comes the foreboding: ‘What if I get it all wrong?’
When Bibi was tiny (that’s her above; wasn’t she cute?!), I remember feeling completely daunted, wondering how on earth I could help this wonderful little creature grow up to be strong, confident and comfortable in her own skin. We – through the media cattle market, the lap dancing clubs on our high streets, the positioning of the famous and fashionable as role models – don’t send out great messages to girls about self worth. We make it all about their looks and, increasingly, about how insecure they should be about them. ‘Comfortable in your skin’ isn’t often promoted as a mainstream virtue these days.
Luckily, Bibi never seemed to struggle much with finding her own sense of style. She had questions, questions, questions like all little kids, including the pointing at newspapers and asking ‘Mummy, why does that lady have no clothes on?’
When she was little, she didn’t seem unduly influenced by peer pressure and, apart from the inevitable pink phase – has anyone ever discovered what that’s all about? – she wasn’t particularly interested in dressing just like her friends. While she didn’t mind what I dressed her in, she was quite the one for giving it a twist and had geek chic down to a fine art from an early age.
I’ll be honest, and I’m sure she’d agree, she wore some absolutely mental outfits as she was growing up but I didn’t ever want to impose my taste on her (especially given my own clothes in the photo above – though please don’t judge me too harshly, it was the 80s!) And anyway she had some great outfits too – we all ride the roller coaster in the great funfair of fashion…
Helping her to keep this sense of ease with herself as she entered her teenage years was more of a challenge. In the face of relentless media obsession with boobs, booty-shaking and no obvious brains, it can be tough for girls as they grow into young women to be themselves and dress the way that they want to dress. Not to attract boys, or girls, or to be ‘cool’, but simply because they like what they’re wearing.
‘But what does this have to do with running?’, I imagine you’re asking. Well, it’s been fascinating to see how Bibi has changed since she started running seriously. Obviously, it’s given her great muscle tone and improved her overall fitness (though I’m not suggesting for one second that she was a couch potato before). What’s really wonderful, though, is how much strength running has given her, physically but also psychologically. For example, after years of being a bunny run skier, on holiday recently she whizzed down red runs, because she really knows now what her body is capable of, plus she’s aware that she can push it further, and maybe faster too.
It’s brilliant to see how her inner strength has been consolidated in recent years too. It could simply be coincidence, of course, but watching her build her career, enjoy her life and have fun, while dealing with difficulties that emerge with equanimity, I can see how much running contributes to that. She knows exactly what she’s capable of now (more or less anything) and doesn’t sweat the small stuff. If that’s not being comfortable in your own skin, I don’t know what is.