Sexism, angry old men and self worth

I experienced the first overt instance of sexism while at the gym yesterday. I’ve been going to the gym for over three years at this point. I’ve occasionally caught guys looking at me, but it was glancing. Overall, the crowds mostly ignore each other unless they’re working in with each other or are already friends/workout buddies. There were a few instances where if I painted the situation one way, it would definitely look like sexism but knowing the whole picture was mostly just friendly people.

But. Monday. Monday was Memorial day, the gym was open from 7am-12pm. I showed up around 7:30 am (I blame my partner for setting me on a 5:30AM wake up alarm or no alarm) and started my workout from New Rules of Lifting for Women. (Stage 4, Workout A, fyi) If you want to read about my own relationship to lifting you can do so here.

About halfway through the workout, I was carrying 42.5 pound dumbbells from the annex (free space-no benches/racks/cages/machines) and an older man who had some language barriers said ‘Strong!’ (I think if the language barriers weren’t there he might have said more). I’m pretty good at reading situations and intentions so I chose to ignore him and keep on with my workout. I don’t have time nor energy to deal with that kind of crap.

Towards the end of the workout, He came up on me as I was planking for 60 seconds. I also had headphones in and was listening to Radical Personal Finance. So I thought he was asking about the squat rack behind me. I said I wasn’t using it. Three to five ish minutes later as I’m on my last plank, he comes up and gets super angry with me, telling me he needs to use the machine I’m using. Long story short, he got very angry because I wouldn’t prioritize his need for this machine because technically I could use a different combination of machines for what I was doing.

That’s not how it works at this gym and it never has. You can politely ask to work in or you can wait. I’ve seen it five million times over. Here’s the really sexist-full part: He tried to commiserate with the two dudebros over my being an irrational woman.

This may be the one time where I’m ok with dudebros saying ‘calm down man’. Because it was literally an angry old man they said it to. THANK YOU DUDEBROS.

Interestingly, this has brought up some mental health accomplishments. I did not for one second question my own worth or my right to occupy space while this was happening, nor did I question it later. While I remain pissed off at this guy if I think about it, I’m not ruminating over my choices and responses. I am not doubting myself and I’m not blaming myself. In fact, I can recognize that this was a culmination of miscommunications and this old man’s sense of entitlement and anger issues.

I’ve noticed that I’ve been more resilient and less likely to always blame myself in negative encounters recently. It thrills me that I am experiencing such an improvement over the last few years and I can only hope it continues. What are your struggles? Have you seen improvement?

You Are Enough

You are enough. If you know me in person, there is a chance you’ve noticed that I have had that phrase tattooed into my forearm. I got my first small tattoo a year or so after my thru-hike. Everyone thinks it’s an arrow, but it’s actually the symbol of the Appalachian Trail. It’s a small reminder to myself of just how much I’ve accomplished in my life. I look at it and see that if I can hike 2200 miles, I can certainly make it through the day, that I can succeed at tasks that might seem insurmountable at first.

But getting the small AT symbol on my wrist was like the start of a drug addiction that I have to resist at every turn. Tattoos are beautiful, a way for me to choose how to display my appearance in ways that I can control. Fortunately for my budget and savings account, I’ve managed to mostly resist. After a few years of therapy, however, I wanted to celebrate what felt like (and was) incredible progress in managing my sense of self worth, Eating Disorder (ED) recovery. After playing around with phrases, I stuck with “You Are Enough.” When I look at it, I’m reminded that I don’t need to play into the comparison of internal self to external other. (And in case you haven’t intuited what that means, it means comparing how I see myself to how others present their best selves and feeling as if I come up severely short)

I’ve been able to use it as an example in conversations with friends who are down on themselves, been reminded of it in downward dog in a yoga class and remembered it when running my fingers down my arms. Once, I was reminded of its existence when I pulled up on my bike next to a guy on his bike and he noticed it. I needed the reminder then. Oftentimes, I remember its existence at the exact right time. They are reminders and boosters for myself, and a motto that I use to remind others of their own worth. I find it amazing just how many friends and acquaintance admit to feeling inferior or have low self-worth. When I remind them that they are great as they are, that they don’t need to be different or better, the looks of relief and pleasure on their faces shows me how much people are stuck in a spiral of low self-worth, self-criticism, and self-recriminations.

The simple phrase of telling people that they don’t need to be more, that they can ignore the messaging that we are always not enough, that this product, that service will make you better, that we have to rely on outside sources for our sense of worth and being.

None of those messages are true. You (and I) are enough. As we are, right now. Remember thatIMG_20150314_170729.jpg

Coming into being

Once, when I was a teenager, my mother strong armed me into taking our dog for a walk. She gave me the leash, the old newspaper bag for poop-scooping duty and ushered me out the door with the dog. She wanted me to be more active, to set me on the journey towards daily physical activity. I didn’t want to walk, I wanted to sprawl over the couch and read a romance novel.

I walked to just out of sight of the house and explored a tree that had a funny growth pattern for about fifteen minutes before returning. I was pondering all of the ill will for being forced to take the dog for a walk. Minute by minute, I waited until I was sure I could come home without suffering the consequence of feeling judged (even if only by myself).

I rewarded myself for all that effort with a giant bowl of goldfish. I practically lived on that snack, much to my mother’s dismay. I stuffed down the feelings of guilt for not actually taking that walk, the feelings of loneliness for not having much of a social life, the feelings of anger and betrayal around the way I looked and why it didn’t match up to the other girls in my class.

I judged myself harshly, probably harsher than the rest of the world and I used food to feel better. I didn’t have the skills to be better at self care, the confidence to reach for something nor the self-awareness to even realize that these behaviors were reminiscent of an eating disorder. I was fat, so therefore I couldn’t have an eating disorder. I wasn’t worthy of attention. I wasn’t, I couldn’t, I didn’t. I had set some strong limitations on myself and who I was in high school and it took years to even discover this.

As I have grown since then, it consistently amazes me how my relationship with food is intertwined with my relationship with myself, with how I perceive things are going with my significant other, with my measure of self worth. It is my hope to share these stories of growth, learning, and self-care with you.