I’ve been wanting to write those words for a long, long time: Shame on us, women. I’m sure many of us will remember Maria Kang, the mom of 3 boys and owner of the “No Excuse Moms” website. She had a picture of herself and her three sons with the words “What’s your excuse?” Which she meant to use as motivation to other moms. I remember clearly thinking “Wow, how amazing and how fit.” I thought that most women would understand where she was coming from because I did and I KNEW how much work, focus and dedication it takes to get fit and stay fit. Trust me, it hasn’t been easy for me and I’ve had a lot of distractions and setbacks. I thought that lots of women would feel inspired and I’m sure that many did feel inspired by her post. What I was struck with, however, was how some women attacked her. A friend pointed out that to someone who is just starting their journey, using the “What’s your excuse?” line would make them feel like they weren’t good enough… yeah, I can see that. Regardless of that though, I have noticed how we (especially women) tend to shame and criticize women who demonstrate a huge amount of discipline, consistency and focus.
I am getting ready to compete a second time this year. I am fascinated with how many changes my body is going through and how different my training is this year from anything I have done in the past. I admit that I have seen the reaction of some women I know towards athletes and it worries me. I have seen a friend who I love, respect and admire go on to criticize a very fit athlete by pointing out how “It’s not healthy, her ribs show. I don’t like her abs. She looks like a boy. She has too much muscle. I don’t want that.” A note on that, the “very fit athlete” that one of my friends was referring to has no high blood pressure. No diabetes. And is extremely healthy. This athlete is about 10 years older than me. And I need to add, she has a hell lot of determination and discipline.
It amuses me and amazes me, that we think we “KNOW” what healthy looks like. We think we have the right to tear an athlete’s body apart and pinpoint what’s wrong with her and what “WE” don’t like. What part of her body seems “too muscular” for our taste. However, if the shoe was on the other foot… and it was the athlete who criticized someone who is overweight and tore her body apart to say what’s wrong with it… women would do the “OH MY GOD! I can’t believe what a BITCH she is!” REALLY? What does that say about you? See here’s the thing that I’m starting to see: IT’S A DOUBLE STANDARD!! We somehow think that we have the right to do that. And we forget that it’s a human being behind that picture and that we know NOTHING about how long it took. How many sacrifices it takes. How much discipline and focus. How many bumps in the road that athlete had to overcome to get there. And by all means if you have failing health, it makes you NO expert on what “healthy looks like”. By the way, I have seen criticism on both sides, don’t get me wrong. However, it’s a lot more predominant from unhealthy women towards athletes.
I asked the question in one of the groups I’m in yesterday. I asked “WHY do we do that?” One of the women said: You have the professional power bitches and the unemployed bitches. You have rich bitches and poor bitches. I don’t think it has anything to do with being fit or whatever, some people are just nasty. Being judgmental and rude is not confined to a certain weight or socioeconomic status or political affiliation. It knows no bounds.” But here’s the thing, I don’t consider the woman who said “She’s too muscular. I don’t think having her ribs show is healthy, etc.” a bitch. I consider her a good person. I’m going to give you point blank what might be happening: It’s SO much easier to focus on what’s wrong with someone else’s body and criticize than it is to look at our own. I know this, because I’ve been there too. We are EXPERTS at being nasty towards anyone who resembles something that we think we can never be. Or someone who has something we think is unreachable to us. And the truth is that if we find consensus with other women who feel the same way we do about a person, then we feel validated about our opinion. Again… we never once stop and think WHAT IF, the shoe was on the other foot and we were the ones receiving that criticism. Forget the amount of work, discipline and dedication which are ALL traits to admire or strive for. We are just too busy condemning the ones who are successful at something. And this happens in the area of fitness, career, parenting, wealth, you name it. Why? Because it’s easier to do that than to change what we don’t like about ourselves. We are too busy hating what it will take for us to get to our goal and use that as an excuse to not do it. “She seems too ____ for me” is the most common excuse I ever hear.
I am writing this while working on my own transformation at the moment. AND I have to be honest, I am not looking forward to the criticism that I might be getting from a few people I care about. However, I’m clear that what I’m doing is radical. And radical makes people uncomfortable. I don’t know if my fears are justified. What I DO know is that I will get on stage feeling proud and accomplished. And I hope that I can inspire other women to set goals and go for it, and not allow the opinions of others to affect them. Because that right there is radical. As someone who is constantly pushing the limit and stepping out of my comfort zone, I want to ask women to do something radical for once: Stop criticizing each other. AND stop criticizing yourself. Let’s be radical so we don’t have to say “Shame on Us, women” ever again.
“Spare yourself from seeking love, approval or appreciation — from anyone. And watch what happens in reality — just for fun.” – Byron Katie