Roller derby gave me a gift. That gift was relief from the constant stream of self-critical chatter in my own head. Well, the real truth of the matter is I gave that gift to myself, but derby was the medium in which I began to understand that my habit of negative self-talk was not enriching my life, nor the lives of those around me. Telling myself I suck didn’t help me learn a hockey stop, it didn’t teach me a strategy, it didn’t help me become a good teammate. Giving myself mental space to mess up and not beating myself up over little failures did, though. I gave myself permission to have fun without being perfect. A good life lesson, it turns out.

It took some mental acrobatics to get there. Derby attracts adventurous, high-achieving women who tend to expect a lot of themselves. And it’s not easy to be good at derby, which most of us find out the first time we put on skates and attempt a skill. So it’s natural to get down on yourself for the inevitable errors you make. But I quickly learned the less I let that negative voice occupy my headspace, the better I did.

But this is not another “derby saved my soul” story. I realized some time this season — one that’s been rife with injury and self-doubt — that I still hadn’t completely beat the habit of talking down to myself. I’m just more subtle about it. I come up with ideas of things I want to do in life and who I want to be. I’m still just never enough. If I don’t ride my bike to work every day in a week, I’m not committed enough to riding. Maybe I don’t cook enough and spend too much money eating out. Maybe I don’t prep enough healthy meals. I cross-train outside of derby, but it’s never enough. Look at this poor showing on my blog this year — I don’t write enough. I keep a busy schedule and don’t see some of my friends enough. I don’t meditate enough. Some days I don’t drink enough water. Most days I don’t get enough sleep. I forgot to send my friend a birthday card. I never read that book someone lent me.


Is it ever enough?

Derby generally surrounds you with so much badassery it’s hard not to compare yourself to others. Did you really give it your all in that drill? You made attendance, but did you practice enough? Did you cross-train, did you eat healthy, did you read everything posted on the league forum? Is your gear clean enough, do you have the best helmet to protect yourself against concussions? Do you have the right wheels to skate on that floor? Do you own even one scrimmage shirt that doesn’t look like a Goodwill reject? Do you watch enough derby? If you do watch enough derby, do you learn as much as you can from what you watch? 

I met a girl at a tournament one year. My team played hers in a single match. We somehow became friends on social media, and even though we have not seen each other since, we’ve gotten to see a little of each other’s lives play out online. Isn’t it amazing how derby does that? I have noticed in the pictures she posts of herself a tattoo that reads: “what I am is enough.” I think of that often — it’s such a beautiful sentiment. What if I could be, right at this moment, enough? Enough in derby. Enough in life. I don’t think it means abandoning plans to improve, but embracing the process. And yourself in the process.