These times that we’re living in are causing me some emotional distress. The treatment of women is getting worse rather than getting better. If a woman is sexually assaulted, she is victim shamed. If a woman is fat, she is fat shamed. If you’re “pretty”, you’re stupid. Women are being told to “smile”. Powerful women are being told that they dress too nicely or not feminine enough. And the wage gap! Oh the infuriating wage gap. We also have the most powerful male political figure completely degrading women while those that support him (men and women) justify it as acceptable because it’s just “talk”. As if what you say to people and how you treat them doesn’t matter deeply.
If you’ve read this blog before, you know I’ve had to deal with a lot of fat shaming. And there are some who have let me know that I’ve brought it on myself because I “let” my body continue to be overweight (as if it’s not something I struggle with, to some degree 24/7/365). I’m gonna go ahead and assume those folks no longer read my words and that’s fine. Part of what makes America (already) great is the fact that people can choose to read or not read what they want. Unless you’re in 8th grade and dammit, you have to read Johnny Tremaine no matter how badly it bores you to tears.
And the lovely fat shaming doesn’t just happen to me who is obviously obese. A good friend of mine, who is one of the most physically fit people I know (I can feel her shaking her head as she reads this. STOP IT) got fat shamed by her DOCTOR. That’s right. The person who is supposed to be looking out for her physical and emotional wellbeing. She has run like 6 marathons for f’s sake and works out like a fiend. Does she fit the stereotype of a whippet like runner? Nope. But guess what? She can out run most people including that damn doctor. And she’s beautiful inside and out.
I belong to a couple of private triathlon Facebook groups. One is for Athena athletes past and present. There are stories like the one above on there EVERY SINGLE DAY. The leader of the group is an amazing athlete. She lost 100 lbs and just the other day someone in her life gave her a hard time about what she USED TO LOOK LIKE. Totally ignoring how far she’s come and the badass athlete she is (and was!). The other Private groups have women and men alike shaming the Athena and Clydesdale athletes for competing in what others think is an easier category at races. Ummmmm…excuse me, we do THE EXACT SAME RACE. And on and on and on….
I was raised by an incredibly strong and capable Mom. And my male role model was (is) my Dad who always believes in my 100%. I was always brought up to believe that I could do anything I wanted. There were no specific gender rules to follow. I was a tomboy through and through. I grew up in a neighborhood where for the most part, girls and boys played on equal footing. I was the only girl on my Little League team, I played basketball, I swam, I had friends that were boys and friends that were girls. Sure, I had Barbies and liked to wear pink and had crushes on boys and experimented with makeup and hair. But I was never treated like I was “less than” because I was a girl. I’m so grateful for all of that.
I was also physically, emotionally and sexually abused as a child by a close family member from the ages of 6-13 (estimated ages. I can’t really remember the start or end and I’m told that’s common for the level of abuse). I seriously contemplated suicide on more than one occasion. I essentially split into two different people. One was a confident person who had zero problems making and keeping friends. I excelled in school and sports. I joined any club that would have me after school. Anything to avoid going home. I had (have) a great relationship with my parents and never really majorly rebelled (though they’ll tell you that me registering as a Democrat broke their hearts) In a sense, the abuse fostered some of my best traits. The other person was a terrified child that was afraid to be alone in the house and afraid to go to sleep. This manifests itself even today. I can’t sleep if I can’t be aware of everything going on in my apartment. (I could never live in a house by myself) All doors open. And at least some ambient light to see what’s what. Anyone that shares a hotel room with me knows that I can’t sleep closest to the door (though they would also share that my snoring will keep any attacker far, far away).
I also gained a crap ton of weight when I was younger as a result. I wanted the insulation to protect me. I also got myself a super cool emotional eating habit. Sweet! Now, this abuse took place like 35 years ago (oy, I’m old). I’m not using it as an excuse by any means to justify my obesity. That is merely a result of the coping mechanism to stress and emotion that I’ve honed so well over the years. These patterns take a long time to break. I’m happy to say that I’ve gotten way better at it and improving all the time. I tell you this, dear reader, not to try to garner sympathy, more just so you know where I’m coming from!
It is so easy for us to believe the worst about ourselves. It makes zero difference that my friend’s doctor is a flipping idiot, it makes no difference that my abuser had severe mental health issues (doi), it makes no difference what other people say, right? Well, it does. The credibility of the person that make a ridiculous statement like “how are you so fat?” or “you’re not going to catch a man if you like that” or “you’re lucky you have a pretty face” and on and on and on…. Doesn’t matter at all. When you hear your worst fears about yourself or situation parroted back to you by someone, it is truly devastating. It’s very hard to get off the mat after it happens. But we do. We soldier on and hopefully the words don’t keep chipping away at us.
It’s hard not to let our own voices stop or stall us on our journeys. Running. Oh god, the running. Why can’t I do it? Well, I can do it. I do, do it (heh, do do). I just don’t run as fast or as far as I think I should be able to at this point. Why is that? Well, maybe I’m just slow to improve? Or maybe (more likely) is I let the voices in my head tell me that I can’t do it. It’s all the people that have told me I can’t. And the loudest voice is my own. I know so many people that do this too. I’ve let this voice win all year this year and it aggravates the piss out of me! Even when I’m doing well in a race, I back off. Like I don’t want people watching to think that I think I deserve to finish the race. What in the actual F is that?! I mean, I’ve encountered some vocal haters on the course and in training but really, I have so many people (friends and strangers) rooting for me. Why is it so easy to believe the bad voices in your head? I have another friend who is just an amazing mom to two girls. She’s also a great triathlete. She spends a lot of time training and racing and CONSTANTLY beats herself up for spending time away from her girls. Instead of focusing on what a positive role model to them she is! Makes me crazy. Another friend is crazy Crossfit strong and still picks apart her body at times.
And I could go on and on and on…..What’s the point of all this? I don’t know. Maybe just to let any person reading this that gets plagued with self doubt know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE!!!! And also maybe to let people that say shitty things to women about their appearance or perceived athletic ability to STOP IT!!! Words do, in fact, hurt. A lot. You ain’t saying anything that a woman hasn’t already told herself. Don’t reinforce it.
Now let’s get off the couch and out there everyone and KICK SOME ASS!
<climbs off soapbox>