I love working with women, and I have worked with a lot of them. They are enthusiastic, kind and grateful. However, working with women is distinctly different from working with men, for several reasons. One, men can usually see themselves the way they are for the most part. They come to me as a trainer/coach and say “I am in pretty good shape but would like to lose about 10 lbs” and they are usually a good judge of their actual look/physique. Two, for the most part, they also don’t get hung up on other people’s opinion of them. If they find out so-and-s0 said [enter some negative comment] about them, they are very quick to dismiss it and say screw that person.
I find it interesting that a lot of women I work with (and me in many cases) are exactly the opposite in the two above scenarios. Many women think they are “fat” or “out of shape” when in fact they are fit, trim and small. Honestly, I am actually embarrassed for myself for the years I spent telling people I was “out of shape” when I was actually like 17% BF. WTF? Besides the fact that it made me look ridiculous, I am sure those people were uncomfortable as hell, always having to reassure me I was just as fit as I actually was. I was a walking insecurity blanket :) And I have a client who says her “thighs are massive” on a weekly basis and the woman is a size 2. What gives?
Second, why, as women, are we so caught up in what other people think of us? I had a conversation about this with a friend recently, and she said, “I don’t even know her, but I hate that she has the wrong impression of me.” And I know in the past I have had a hard time with someone I don’t really even respect or like that much having a negative opinion of me. I think many women can resonate with the need and want to be liked. I think it is actually normal and fine, so long as it doesn’t make us compromise our natural way of being. For example, I have certainly changed the way I have acted or what I did based on what I thought would look the best, going out of my way for people and putting myself out because of it. Of course, now I can see that it was my decision to accommodate them in order to garner affirmation of some sort, but back then, I was just a blaming machine: “Doesn’t so-and-so know how much work this was??” or “Doesn’t she understand I am doing this for her??” and the answer was always no. So I might as well have done what I wanted to do for myself in the first place :) In the past I had a really hard time drawing boundaries. I had to learn how to balance doing for myself with also letting my loved ones know that just because I don’t want to do such-and-such doesn’t mean I don’t love and respect them. It’s a fine line and the worry about looking selfish was certainly a concern. I think as women, whether it’s our natural maternal way of being or want to take care of others, sometimes we can forget to take care of ourselves.
It’s interesting, because as women, I think on the surface we sometimes walk around blaming other people, but underneath all of that, we are actually blaming ourselves the most, aren’t we? We are so hard on ourselves. We set up expectations for ourselves and then decide we are a failure if we don’t reach them. We have in our heads this picture of perfection–“If I can just do __________ (or keep myself from doing _________), than I will be the perfect friend/wife/mother/daughter/dieter/competitor, etc”–and then we proceed to expend copious amounts of energy trying to fit ourselves into that box of perfection. Who decided that that’s what perfection looks like? Who decided that if you don’t have a 25 inch waist you are fat? Who decided that if you are not in “show shape” you are not worthy? Where did those expectations come from? They come from somewhere deep inside of us…from some place of insecurity and misunderstanding. It is important to remember that this stuff is normal and the only reason I write about it is because I have done this very thing to myself over and over again, only to wind up with feelings of inadequacy and failure. And all I know is that THAT feels like crap! So what to do?
First, how about trying to RELAX and just be. Difficult I know, but the first step is to understand yourself and ask questions about yourself. Do you tend to be insecure? Are you anxious? Do you have feelings of inadequacy? Do you tend to automatically get defensive when someone makes a suggestion to you? Have you been told you are overly sensitive? If you hear someone say something negative about you or “your stuff” do you stew on it for days? I have experienced every one of these and have spent time understanding these things about myself. And of course, for us women, for the most part, these things are part of “our condition” :) but remember, just because they are normal, doesn’t mean you can’t grow from them in order to feel more fulfilled, happier and more secure. The more you can sit with yourself and learn to be ok with yourself objectively, just as you are, the less these situations seem to throw you. Of course, this is an on-going process of introspection, and it’s something I have to practice every day or else the old crazy, insecure Jill comes out and before I know I am drowning in a sea of unworthiness :)
Remember, trying to be something you are not is like taking a triangle and trying to fit it into a square. There is nothing wrong with a triangle except the rules we make about it. How we are is how we are. And there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with that. We are perfect the way we are, right now. No changes, no expectations, no place else to go, nothing else to do. Be gentle on yourself :) Besides, if you aren’t, who else will be?