Running With Teresa

How Naming My Inner Critic Helped Me Outrun Negative Self-Talk

Elizabeth Cauvel

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Image by Zac Ong via Unsplash

I have a running buddy. Well, not a buddy so much as a frenemy. Well, not a frenemy so much as a nemesis.

So, yeah. I have a running nemesis.

I prefer to run solo, so the fact that she shows up on almost all my runs is, frankly, intrusive. She lives really close by, so she’s always around. She talks a lot–too much, if I’m being honest. She can be deeply unkind. She’s not particularly funny. Hell, she’s not even that smart.

She’s…me. My nemesis is me.

Or, more precisely, the interior version of me from whom springs a toxic geyser of negative self-talk day and night.

“You didn’t do [that minor thing] correctly.”

“You’re getting old. Fast.”

“If you haven’t achieved [literally any life milestone] by now, you probably never will.”

About a year ago, I started listening to guided runs just to shut the bitch up. Nevertheless, she persists.

One day recently, I was about a half-mile into a run when she joined me unexpectedly.

Everyone thinks you’re a failure, she said. (See? She’s a real piece of work.) She kept talking, letting me know about all the people who, in all likelihood, spend their free time unpacking my various shortcomings.

Wait a minute, I thought. This voice isn’t me. So…who IS she?

From somewhere inside my mind, the voice answered, clear as a bell: Teresa.

TERESA! How very nice to make your acquaintance, you absolute ghoul.

OK, Teresa, I thought. You wanna run with me? Let’s go.

I cranked up the Britney in my AirPods and picked up the pace, just to spite her. But she was fast. She matched my stride, and over the course of the next mile proceeded to blame me for the myriad difficulties in her life. Bad things happen to bad people, she always says.

But now that I could put a name to the voice, Teresa no longer had the floor. This was a conversation. So I talked back.

Teresa, I said, Sometimes bad things just…happen. Bad things happen to everyone

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Elizabeth Cauvel

I’m a west coast-based creative director at New York-based ad agency MRY, and the season 5 Masterchef runner-up. I love mayonnaise, yoga, cats, and pizza.