This Girl Can (and Does)

There’s been a lot of buzz this week about a campaign out of England to get more women involved in physical activity. The ads show women of all ages, shapes and sizes getting their sweat on in all sorts of ways. These women jiggle, they have cellulite, they’re anything but perfect.

And it’s awesome.

I read this Huffpost article on the new campaign, and this line stood out for me:

So what has been stopping us from doing so thus far? Unlike the gender pay gap, this was one area where we weren’t being held back, where we were actively choosing to not participate in something. “We did lots of research,” says Executive Director Tanya Joseph, “and there was one single unifying theme – fear of judgement.”

I have been active for most of my life. My family really emphasized the importance of sport and being active.

But I’ve never looked like an athlete; I’m chubby, I jiggle, I get super red in the face (I’m already very pink to begin with). I’ve also never been the best at any sport; I’ve never been the worst either though. I’ve felt self consciousness around both these issues (how I look and my abilities) when being active or considering trying a new sport.

In the past few years a number of friends and acquaintances have confessed to me a similar discomfort at trying new things. Either fear of judgement around their performance because they’ll be a beginner, or fear of how they’ll look. What makes me sad is that these friends of mine aren’t talking about their self-consciousness filled teenage years either; they are talking specifically about being an adult and getting active. I’ll admit that my history of being active since a young age has helped me with the confidence in my athletic ability as an adult, but still I thought I’d share a few of my mind tricks to help get me out the door for a run, or trying a new sport.

1. Be a role model: this is the biggest one for me. A lot of my self-consciousness came because I’d never see someone that looked like me doing such and such sport. A lot of the time I think about that young girl (aka me) who wanted to try dance but who believed she wasn’t flexible enough and so she shied away from trying it. I want her to know it’s okay to dance anyway, so now I try it. I figure if no one else will be the fool, I will, because the me that was ten and sees someone just like her dancing, gives her permission to go out and dance to her hearts content too.

2. Remember everyone was a beginner once too: if you think about how you work with someone completely new to something you’re really good at, you’ll realize you probably don’t judge them. Sure you may get the odd moment of being impatient, but mostly you know you started somewhere like that once too. Sometimes you will get a coach or trainer or teacher who is judgemental, but try to keep in mind that’s their stuff not yours. There are probably a number of things that you might look foolish doing, but if say it’s a beginner dance class, everyone will be in the same boat. If it’s a yoga class with newbies to advance practitioners, remember that you have no idea how long the other people have been practicing (so drop the comparing which brings me to…).

3. Change that self talk: this is honestly the hardest and probably the one I’ve been working on the most recently. Negative talk surrounds us on a daily basis; we are constantly bombarded with messages telling us we are not good enough; either through advertisements or other pieces of media (I think health related issues can be particularly damning). I used to use pretty negative self talk to motivate myself; a la Jillian Michaels, I would basically yell at myself in my head, it was not pretty. This past year I thought what if I just told myself I’m doing awesome? What if I simply started saying I can instead of I can’t or will never be able to? So now in the gym I often consciously focus on what I’m thinking. Honestly as silly as it sounds it’s been working. Strength things I never thought I’d be able to do I’ve been doing with much less effort (hello longer planks!) and I’ve made much better strength gains. And I acknowledge how far I’ve come with those. Being positive about what I do, instead of negative, has made a world of difference in my performance. I think it could for you too.

So those are a few of the tricks that work for me.

Have you seen the campaign? What do you do to get yourself out there?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s