How Roller Skating Improved My Self-Esteem

And I’m not talking about falling and getting back up again…

Photo by Matias N Reyes on Unsplash

2020 brought a lot of interesting hobbies out of the woodwork, and made them more popular than ever. People took up activities like baking, crocheting, embroidery, making earrings and jewelry, etc. Another one of these hobbies that suddenly skyrocketed in popularity was roller skating. In a matter of weeks retailers were wiped clean of their stock, brands like Impala and Moxi had their websites selling out and were unable to keep up with orders.

So, why roller skates? Honestly, it’s the perfect quarantine hobby. You only need skates and protective gear, and you don’t need to travel anywhere specific to do it. You can skate on your own, outside in your driveway or even in your kitchen. For some people, skating was a hobby from their childhood that they rekindled their love for. But for many people it was a whole new world, starting fresh from the basics. I’ve seen many people that have completely taught themselves to skate just from watching Youtube videos like Dirty Deborah Harry or even on Instagram, following popular accounts like @frankvinyl_skates.

Personally, I had little to no skate experience. My only roller skating experience consisted of a handful of friends’ birthday parties at roller rinks in my childhood. And I wasn’t very good. I never really cared much for falling.

So why did I buy roller skates then? Well, it was a perfect storm events that led me to my first pair of beautiful white Impala roller skates. First, by a matter of chance, I saw some Instagram girls roller skating in San Diego, and I thought it was pretty much the coolest thing ever. I found myself scrolling through their accounts, wanting that life. They looked so cool, and they looked like they were having so much fun. I wanted that.

Second, my boyfriend broke up with me in January. So in February, I got roller skates. I had been thinking about getting them for probably over three months at that point, but the breakup was the catalyst that made me take the jump. I was feeling sad and lost and needed a new hobby to help take up my time. The roller skates felt like a symbolic first step.

So, how did roller skates improve my self-esteem? I can break it down into three different ways.

I’ve always been a socially-anxious person, and that has caused me to be hyper-aware of others’ perception of me in public. I tend to feel awkward, and I pay too much attention to the way I present myself, how I talk, if I said or did something stupid, etc. I tend to assume everyone hates me until proven otherwise. It’s an exhausting way to live. This is something I have begun to address in therapy, but sometimes it can be hard to put those ideas into practice.

Most of my life I’ve tried to avoid drawing attention to myself. You know what makes that pretty much impossible? Wearing roller skates in public. My house has a very small amount of hardwood floors, so practicing inside was pretty much impossible. I tried practicing outside on my concrete patio, but again, not a lot of space. I tried practicing in my sloped driveway, but that was risky.

So where did I practice? Two places mostly. At the tennis court in the park, and at the rec center I used to work at, on their indoor running track. Both of these were incredibly public places, with people constantly walking by and watching. At the rec center, the running track was usually empty, but it was right in front of the treadmills, so I became the source of entertainment for everyone working out. I didn’t know it at the time, but this ended up being the best thing I could’ve done for my skating experience.

I had to adjust very quickly to knowing people were looking at me. I often found myself fumbling and getting out of sync when I felt people coming by, or knowing they were watching me. I learned to stop caring what they thought of me, and just focus on skating. This was a lesson I had to learn, not only while skating, but in my daily life as well. The less I worried about other people, and focused on what I was doing and how I could keep moving forward, the less anxious I felt. I started to feel comfortable just being me, and doing my thing, whether that was roller skating, or taking a new class, or wearing a new outfit in public. I started letting go of the weight of caring what other people thought of me.

When I first got my roller skates, I was so excited to become a “skater girl”. Then, my next thought was: but I’m not a skater girl. That’s not the type of person I am. I suddenly felt like I’d made a mistake. I felt like a fraud, or that I was trying to be someone I’m not. I would never be like the girls on Instagram, skating around San Diego. I would never look like them and I’d never be as cool as them.

However, once I started actually skating and practicing every day, I started focusing on the actual activity of skating, and not the labels or identity that I had associated with it. I started just enjoying skating. I liked how it made me feel, and I really liked seeing the progress I was making as I learned. I stopped caring about becoming a “skater girl” or whatever you want to call it. I wasn’t watching skate videos to compare myself to the girls on Instagram, I was watching to learn how to do something new. I was no longer worried about learning all the cool tricks and “jam skating” moves I saw online, I was genuinely content just skating in circles around the tennis court. Because that’s what felt good to me, and that’s what I enjoyed about skating. I wasn’t going to compare my skating progress to other skaters on TikTok, I had become content taking my time on my skate journey.

When I first got my skates, I was almost afraid to start. I was afraid I didn’t fit the mold for a roller skater. I didn’t look cool like the other girls I saw, skating down boardwalks or at the skate park. I was afraid that because I didn’t feel like I could fit into the “skate community” I wouldn’t like skating at all. I had started putting limits on myself and what I thought the hobby of skating looked like.

Once I removed those pre-conceived limits of what I believed skating to be, I felt a new freedom to just enjoy skating for myself. I wasn’t concerned with making TikTok videos of myself skating, I didn’t feel like I needed to post about it every day on my Instagram story. I started living for myself, and skating for myself. I just wanted to learn to skate, and if I found a skate community to be a part of, I would let that come in it’s own time.

Photo by Caleb Russell on Unsplash

The most surprising lesson I learned from roller skating was that the more confident I felt in myself, the better I would actually do. The greatest thing that ever held me back while roller skating was my own fear and self-doubt. When I was afraid of falling, I would flail and freeze up. When I doubted my ability, I would often get out of sync and lose my stride while skating. I knew I could do it, but if I got in my own head and started overthinking it, I’d lose balance and mess up.

I noticed I skated my best when I stopped thinking. Easier said than done, believe me. I’m a chronic overthinker and my thoughts are always racing a mile a minute. However, when I really just let myself enjoy the movement and experience of skating, I skated a lot better. Music is a great way to do this. Instead of thinking about how you’re skating and if you’re doing it right, just let your body move to the rhythm of the music, and you’ll naturally start picking up your skate stride. Makes sense why roller rinks are always blasting Top 40’s hits.

Once I made the realization that the more I believe in my own abilities, the better I actually do, it changed the way I saw myself. And not just while I was skating, but in my daily life as well. In my work life, or in school, or even in my relationships, I often found myself waiting to have enough skills to be confident in my abilities. I had to prove to myself that I was capable, then I would be confident in myself. Skating made me realize I can completely flip this thought process. Instead of trying to prove myself in order to become confident, I could actually just start out confident. I could walk into a situation, confident in myself that I am already capable of handling whatever comes my way, then perform my best. And I did start performing better. I started taking more risks when I would have normally sat back and watched from the sidelines. I started putting myself out there more, I started talking to people and acted more outgoing — when before I would have waited until someone approached me.

I realized there was no reason not be confident in myself — I had nothing I needed to prove — I am enough already.

I am definitely still just an amateur roller skater at this point, but it’s a hobby I am glad to have found this year. Roller skating gives me something to look forward to during the day, it gives me goals to work towards, and it provides a physical outlet for my stress and anxiety. Roller skating forces you to get out of the house, physically put yourself out there, and take chances. There’s a chance you might fall, there’s a chance you might learn something new. There’s a chance people might stare at you, but most likely they’re thinking “hey that looks pretty fun”, and there’s always a chance you might start a conversation or meet someone new. Roller skating, just like anything else, is what you make it. It’s a hobby that physically teaches (or forces) you to keep moving forward, keep your head up, and don’t look down.

Larysa Labiak is a Denver based freelance writer. Her work mostly centers around health, love, dating and relationships.

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