“Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle”.
This quote has been a favorite of mine for several years now, and I keep it close at all times as a constant reminder to continually strive to treat anyone I encounter with respect and understanding, even if I don’t completely comprehend or agree with their personal life decisions. As an inherent people pleaser, it took me many years to be able to acknowledge and accept that not every single person I meet in life will like me, and in the same respect, I also needed to understand that I won’t see eye-to-eye with everyone who crosses my path either. People are born with many different personality traits and preferences, and the vast array of different personal life experiences also has a great influence on how we feel about, and react to, certain situations.
We live in a world which has always struggled with the acceptance of those who are different than we are. Our history is marred with the indiscretions of our ancestors, as, for centuries, we have resisted the approval of others who hail from different races, lifestyles, and religions; and unfortunately this is still an issue in our world today.
Not only do we tend to struggle with accepting others on a grand scale, but we also hold onto our own personal opinions about what we believe makes a person good or bad, and this typically seems to be based loosely on our specific experiences with certain people or events. This very circumstance also rings very true in the fitness world, but not only there, as it is also quite prevalent between the women who pursue a healthy lifestyle.
For centuries, women have felt the pressure to maintain a certain exterior image, while our male counterparts seem to receive much more leniency with regards to the expectation of attaining a specific physique. Now I’m not saying that men don’t put pressure on each other, or themselves, to achieve a specific body type (I’m sure every man dreams to some degree of attaining those 6-pack Spartan Gladiator abs), but women specifically tend to place high expectations on ourselves when it comes to body image and how we should physically look. And while we struggle with our own personal insecurities with regards to our bodies, we tend to take this frustration out on other women who are not currently dealing with our specific issue.
I recall just three years ago, at 50 pounds overweight, I was sorely insecure. Each time I would see a woman who was thinner than I, or who had an athletic physique making it clear that she took the time to work out, I would quickly fluctuate between moments of jealousy, admiration, and downright dislike. This range of emotions were directed at a complete stranger, and left me feeling inadequate, and an unhappy mess. The silly thing is, it wasn’t the other woman’s fault for having a beautiful body, nor should I have judged her for making a personal choice that provided her with a body that I wished I had. Instead of focusing on the negative emotions toward her, which only existed because of my own insecurities, I should have been inspired by her. Unfortunately at that time I was not in a place to realize this negative cycle, and I have to admit, that even today I’m not perfect, as I need to consciously remind myself regularly to put away my insecurities, to squash the instinct to react negatively, and to realize the beauty in the person who creates such a reaction.
I also see this sort of behavior within many groups of women, and even within the Spartan Chicked community. While the majority of women in the group are wonderfully supportive, inspired, and encouraging, there are times when specific photos or posts create a negative backlash. Whether it’s someone we judge to be too heavy, too thin, or perhaps we think they choose a workout method we don’t quite understand (anyone want to get into a CrossFit debate?), we occasionally get sucked into a feisty debate, thinking we know best. I know I’ve done my fair share of judgmental thinking in my day, so I’m not writing this self-righteously by any means. I don’t always understand where everyone is coming from, nor do I always agree with them, but I also strive to approach each topic or person with the acknowledgement that I do not know their specific story.
My goal for writing this is to raise awareness about how critical we as women tend to be on each other, when perhaps we are reacting out of our own insecurity. I believe there are times when we need to sit back for a moment and assess why we are feeling these negative emotions toward a person we’ve never met; and we may just realize that support, understanding, and affirmation is probably what they are looking for, just as much as we are. I love when I see women in the group build each other up, it’s so amazing! And I want to see that awesome encouragement to grow exponentially.
That woman who looks perfectly fit with the 6-pack abs? I can guarantee you she still has days when she feels bloated, gross, and insecure. How about the overweight woman who gasps for breath along the road, appearing to barely shuffle along as she struggles to continue on her run? Don’t look at her with disdain, applaud her for getting out and trying. We are all different, with different stories and different challenges. I’m certain that I’ve gotten some strange looks when training with my tire, boldly decorated in hot pink duct tape and race stickers. But does that mean that my style of working out is better or worse than someone who chooses Zumba as their favorite way to work out? Absolutely not.
I’d like to challenge every woman of Spartan Chicked to stand up not only for each other, as we all continue on this great journey toward healthier, happier living, but to also believe in yourself! Gaining personal confidence will aid in your ability to also build others up, and if we truly continue to strive toward supporting one another as a unified group, no matter where we are at in our journey or how we choose to get there, we will truly become an unstoppable force, inspiring many more women to tear themselves off the couch, get healthy, and (hopefully!) come lose their sparkle with us at an upcoming Spartan Race.
Thank you all for being a part of this wonderful, beautiful movement full of vibrancy, beauty, and motivation. Let’s keep Spartan Chicked growing by inspiring one another daily. AROO!
~Holly Joy Berkey