“Don’t judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes” is a quote dating back a long way, to the Cherokee tribe of Native Americans; wise people. Nelle Harper Lee, author of “To Kill a Mockingbird” was seemingly on the same track when she wrote “You never really know a man until you understand things from his point of view, until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” They are speaking of empathy. Such a beautiful and powerful thing and yet often so rare.
On Sunday, I ploughed through the torrents of rain to West Wilts Equestrian Centre to watch Jack compete in a JAS qualifier. Wet is an understatement, it tipped it down all day. I had my jodhpurs on under my waterproofs and my hat in the boot, just in case the opportunity arose to have a sit on. In order to keep mentally calm though I had to keep it consciously casual; “just in case” I could deal with.
Jack jumped in his first class. A really great round, expertly piloted by Southerly. He then was jumping early in the second class so he could stay out and walk around to be ready for round two. So, I could just have a little sit on. I went to put my hat on, literally saying out loud “Just put the hat on, that all.” I calmly got on from the mounting block and breathed out. I have learnt that breathing out is the key. When a person gets anxious their breathing gets shorter, when a person gets super anxious their breathing gets really short and then we get into panic attack territory. Breathing out is the key to keeping long breaths.
I sat on and breathed out and was ok. Mother said “just keep him walking so he doesn’t get cold.” “I can do that.” I replied. I breathed out again. Perhaps it’s my background in theatre but I found myself being quite nonchalant about it, not because I was but because I needed to be.
As I walked around I saw girls in the cafe looking at me. I imagined them asking who the random girl on Southerly’s horse was. I imagined them criticising the way I sat. I then blocked it out, gave Jack a little scratch and continued to walk around. I was ok.
“Maybe you would like a little trot round before Southerly gets back on?” Mother said. “I can do that.” I replied. I breathed out. And I did do that and I was ok.
I share this story because the girls in the cafe, the others warming up, no one knew what was going on with me that day. None of them have walked in my shoes. They could have got annoyed as I took a moment extra on the mounting block, or they could have got irritated when I trotted super slow in the warm up, or they could have laughed at my weird breathing. It is so easy to get annoyed by other people but maybe we all need to take a breath sometimes and give them a bit more of a chance in case their road has been a tough one. Empathy.
I also share this for anyone else who is where I am with their confidence. I am there and I am fighting on. I hope that you are too.
Any confidence advice welcomed…..