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Appreciating My Own Skin  

Celebrating me and my accomplishments!
Alison O'Brien
Written by Alison O'Brien

With that turn of the phrase, my entire outlook shifted. I adopted a “Like me for me, or don’t; it’s okay” attitude.

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Sometimes it takes an incident to realize what your next steps in life are going to be. Maybe you finally believe in yourself, maybe you learn a new appreciation in life, or maybe you have conquered one of the biggest challenges—accepting and appreciating your identity, your skin—flaws and all.


Celebrating me and my accomplishments!

Celebrating me and my accomplishments!

“If you were an animal, which animal would you be?”

That’s always been an easy question to answer as I have been a “chameleon” most of my 42 years.

I have always been great at blending in with my surroundings; amalgamating in all atmospheres, as changing circumstances dictate.  Reading that may make me sound phony and insincere, but I am neither.  I am always true to myself, even if parts of my personality may be muted at times.

Being a chameleon serves an important purpose, as I wear a multitude of hats on a daily basis.  As a Television Producer, I need to bond with my interview subjects, reporter, camera crew and editor, on a story-by-story basis.  As CEO of my running apparel company, JWalking Designs, I have to know how to talk fabrics, fit and fashion, even when they are seemingly foreign.  And as a volunteer marathon coach for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, I literally run with people from all walks of life.  We share the common goal of training for an endurance event to help those enduring cancer, but sometimes little else.

In order to succeed in all of those endeavors – and in the entirety of life – I need to gain your trust.  Birds of a feather do flock together, and because I enjoy being a listener rather than a talker, I am often in-tune to things over which we can build a solid base.  My interest in you is truly genuine, and your allowing me into your world brings me comfort.

But as my blending began bleeding into all aspects of my life, I lost sight of my total, true self.  I could not keep up with the self-imposed demands of being all things for all people, and I had little energy to listen to my own voice.  I really felt lost.

Then, something happened that made me realize that shedding my camouflage was needed to completely live life.  It was the bombing at the 2013 Boston Marathon finish line.  Running with pride and purpose in my historic hometown, the tragedy left me a mere mile short of completing my life-long dream, and in paralyzing fear that harm, or worse, had befallen my family.

Thankfully, my family, charity team and I were physically fine, but the experience changed me emotionally.  I saw first-hand that time is precious; why spend so much of it blending in and not standing out?

With that turn of the phrase, my entire outlook shifted.  I adopted a “Like me for me, or don’t; it’s okay” attitude.  I like to eat popcorn for dinner, out of a bowl roughly twice the size of my head, while watching “The Biggest Loser” on TV.  I need my dollar bills to all face the same way; my keys to be in the same place on the table every day; and my suitcase to be unpacked immediately after a trip.  Don’t like it?  It’s really okay with me.

I speak in my own voice and like what I hear.  I still yearn to be part of your world, but I prefer it to be more on my own terms.  I bond and build trust with others, but now do so by showing and shining on my own.  I am no longer fearful to share my story, and that has opened me up to endless opportunities, including lowering my self-built walls to let others inside.

My “aha” moment changed my life for the better.  I’d love to hear yours!

Identity Magazine is all about empowering women to get all A’s in the game of life – Accept. Appreciate. Achieve.™ Every contributor and expert answer the Identity 5 questions in keeping with our theme. As a team, we hope to inspire and motivate ourselves and inspire you to get all A’s.

What have you accepted within your life, physically and/or mentally? What are you still working on accepting?

I am slowly learning to accept my limitations. I am one human – sometimes superhuman – being. I may not be able to do it all, but I will always try to do my best at anything I attempt. I can accept failing, but I cannot accept not trying.

What have you learn to appreciate about yourself and/or within your life, physically and mentally? What are you still working on to appreciate?

I appreciate my strength and spirit. As a volunteer coach for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training, I need to motivate and inspire my marathoners to stride farther and faster for many a mile. I truly believe that you can accomplish anything you put your mind and energy towards, and I try to impart that “WOO!” throughout their training.

What is one of your most rewarding achievements in life? What makes YOU most proud? What goals and dreams do you still have?

I am extremely proud that I continually challenge and push myself beyond my perceived limitations. When I turned 40, friends and I decided to celebrate tackling a triathlon. Daunting, yes, especially for a person who had neither swum nor biked since age 10! When the starting gun went off to go into the water, I really thought I may pass out, but I waded in and swam the wrong way, but I completed the leg. While cycling, I was pedaling hard up one hill and found I hadn’t moved more than two feet from the volunteers handing out water. And, on the 5K run, I sang out loud – and off-key – out of relief that I’d finally reached a sport I knew I could do! It was not pretty, but I did it – and I’ve done three more since.

We all have imperfections, so we think. The truth—we are all perfectly imperfect. What are your not-so-perfect ways? What imperfections and quirks create who you are—your Identity?

I really crave order and organization, sometimes to distraction; my bed has to be made every day, as I can’t go to sleep in an unmade bed, and the pillows and shams need to be ‘just so’. If there is any episode of “Law & Order” on, I must watch, even if I can recite it word-for-word, as I can the documentaries I’ve produced. I talk to the animals in the zoo, and our dog, as if they understand and may answer back; and start up conversations with total strangers because I find people fascinating. I joke with my boyfriend, whom I met nine months after the marathon bombing, that I come “as is” – and he accepts me, quirks and all.

“I Love My…” is an outlet for you to express and appreciate all the positive traits that make you…well… YOU! Sharing what you love about yourself will make you smile, feel empowered, and uplift your spirit and soul. (we assure you!)

Identity challenges you to complete the phrase “I Love My…?

“I Love My… Huge Heart and Capacity to Care. When I look at my nieces and nephews, I feel my heart expand – like the Grinch whose heart grew three times after joining the celebration. I feel that love and passion for all of the important people, places and things in my life, and I’m happy that has not diminished.

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About the author

Alison O'Brien

Alison O'Brien

How a Pair of Running Shorts Spurred on My Second Career.

As a veteran television producer and novice athlete, I decided to train for my first marathon in the hopes of finding and funding a cure for the cancer my friend was bravely battling. I spent the 26.2 miles finding fault with the ill-fitting, dysfunctional and certainly unflattering running shorts I was wearing. Seven years, thousands of miles, and even more running 'bottoms' bought, I decided that if I couldn't find fitness fashions I liked, I'd make them myself.
FACEBOOK: www.facebook.com/jwalkingdesigns
TWITTER: www.twitter.com/jwalkingdesigns

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