Weight Room Wisdom- Lesson 1
This week my good friend and fellow Girl-Who-Lifts, Sarah Smith, is our Own Your Strength Guest Blogger!
In this post, Sarah shares about her experience as a “fat girl” and lets us in on how the sport of Powerlifting helped her re-define her idea of beauty.
Weight Room Wisdom: Lesson 1
I’ll come right out and say it – I’m a “fat girl”.
I’m overweight. A BBW (shudder).
Here in my very first blog post EVER, as with so many other situations in my life, I feel a compulsive need to “get it out in the open” right away. To be up front. Like I better let you know now, so that you know that I know that I’m not perfect and you don’t have to qualify and categorize everything I say and do because I’ve done all of that already.
It’s like my weight is some kind of critical factor required to determine my actual worth as a person. And it automatically makes me less valuable in some way, less worthy, so it wouldn’t be right to not tell you first.
That’s the way it’s been pretty much my whole life. I became overweight as a young child, probably age 8 or 9, and it completely polarized my entire life experience – my social standing in the tiny universe of my grade 5 class plummeted, along with my self-confidence.
As I reached adolescence and transitioned to teenage life in high school, I continued to live a sort of restricted, parallel social experience to my peers. I couldn’t wear bikinis at the lake and flirt with boys, I had no romantic relationships, and I rejected pretty much everything feminine. How could I be feminine when I was fat?
Since then many things have changed for the better.
Some things though, are still the same.
I wish I could wow you with stories of my incredible transformation from fat to thin, from overweight to totally healthy, from ugly duckling to attractive, desirable swan.
But I don’t have those stories in my book. Not yet anyways. It hasn’t gone down that way for me. And while I’m definitely stronger, healthier and fitter than almost any other period in my life, I still have daily struggles with body image issues.
How I look, and how I feel about how I look, influences the way I act around other people, the thoughts I think throughout the day, and the decisions I make about many different parts of my life, moment to moment.
Which is actually exactly why I’ve landed on the pages of OYS. So before I go any further, let me assure you – this isn’t meant to be dark, depressing or de-motivating.
QUITE the opposite.
I want to share my stories about being strong, about triumphing over personal challenges, about winning in the face of adversity.
That’s why I’m here, talking to you through the computer screen, writing all of this. Because even though I’m still challenged by my body image, I’ve improved it, and keep on improving it. And I want to help other people do the same. YOU ARE NOT ALONE! Like many of you, I am still in the process of figuring the whole “healthy balanced living” thing out.
I’m still climbing the mountain, travelling the road to self-mastery. I’m in the thick of it. And while I still have so many questions, I’ve found many answers in the sport of Powerlifting.
Yep, Powerlifting. Didn’t see that one coming did ya? Well, neither did I at first.
It’s changing me, changing my life, and teaching me about myself – which is why I plan to talk a lot about it in the posts to come.
It’s surprising, and uplifting, to discover how much a barbell can teach you about life, and how much it can inspire you to love who you are, where you are in that moment – and, to work on becoming healthier, stronger, and happier.
But none of that good stuff is possible without first addressing the most CRITICAL LESSON I’ve learned from my time in the weight room thus far.
Lesson One: Accept Yourself for Who You Are, NO EXCEPTIONS
One thing I know for sure – no matter where you’re at or how you feel about yourself, this one thing is true – if you choose, just CHOOSE, to accept who you are in this moment, you have automatically flipped the switch for all future possibility to ON.
If you can simply accept all the things that you are (or aren’t), whether they’re right or wrong, whether your view of yourself is accurate or completely skewed – it doesn’t matter. It DOESN’T.
Because acceptance of your SELF means giving some love to the good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful – ALL of it.
Acceptance is about transcending what’s good or bad, ugly or beautiful, thin or fat.
Why is this lesson so important, so critical that it’s lesson #1?
Well, because if you don’t make this choice, to accept yourself AS YOU ARE, it will be virtually impossible to change.
Trust me – the same angry, self-hate that got you to the gym on Monday will keep your ass planted on the couch, depressed and eating a quart of Ben n Jerry’s on Friday. So let’s talk about how to get the ball rolling.
You can start this process in a number of simple ways. One of my favourite techniques is mirror-talk. I look at myself in the mirror and talk to myself! Sometimes completely naked (that one can be kind of rough, but it’s worth the effort, trust me). Things I’ll say to myself include:
- “I love and accept myself exactly as I am.”
- “I AM enough.”
- “Even if no one else sees your beauty, I SEE IT. I love you.”
- “It’s ok to be you.”
Now I’ve got to put out a warning here – this isn’t easy. At least, it’s not always easy. The choice you only have to make once – but the work you have to do EVERY DAY. Thankfully, as a powerlifter, I’m looking at myself in the mirror at least 5 days a week.
When we CHOOSE to accept ourselves for who we are, we start to calm that inner critic, lower the volume on the negative self-talk, and create some space for feeling good about who we are right now.
We start to coach ourselves through the hard times, give our own personal pep-talks inside our heads, and maintain some genuine compassion for ourselves. It doesn’t mean that I don’t want to get better, to be better, to do better.
What it really means is I’m ALREADY ENOUGH – so anything I do beyond that is a bonus, icing on the cake baby!
I’ve also noticed that it’s a lot easier (and faster) to deal with setbacks – because THEY WILL HAPPEN. There are big challenges and bad days for sure – but when I accept myself I can bounce back and recover with a lot more ease and grace.
No matter what my vision is, where I to go, how I want to look, or who I want to be – it’s ok if I’m not there right now.
I’ve also noticed that when I’m cool with me, it’s easier (and faster) for me to recover from the fuck ups and bounce back from the setbacks.
Having compassion for myself, like I do for the people in my life that I care about, goes so much farther than telling myself I’m a piece of shit for missing a workout or eating that pizza.
The moral of the story is, if we can accept ourselves as we are RIGHT NOW, NO EXCEPTIONS, we can take the first meaningful step forward to becoming healthier, happier, more balanced individuals.
It doesn’t mean there won’t be times where we forget to accept who we are. I still do it a LOT. But that’s ok – because I can always come back to the same, essential truth – I am enough.
Every single one of us is.
When we own that for ourselves, we become so much more than what we look like.