I grew up thinking that I was not, and could not be, an athlete because I didn’t have the “body type” for it. I heard from so many people, from my own mother to friends to teachers and coaches, that some women just have that slim-hipped, long-limbed, “athletic” build that makes running and jumping easier and more efficient, and that people like me with short legs and hourglass shapes were simply destined to fall behind. In my 20s I was going to the gym and to hot yoga classes 4 times a week , but because I wasn’t running, or playing a sport, or going to spin class, I didn’t think it really counted. I just “didn’t have the body type” for real sports, so I did other, lesser forms of exercise to feebly make up for it.
It’s so absurd, isn’t it? But I believed it. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, despite pushing myself with personal trainers and going to intense classes and doing yoga poses that many people can’t manage, despite all of that, I believed that I simply couldn’t be an athlete. Even going and buying sportswear was fraught; I felt like an imposter looking through that section of stores, like there was a spotlight on me and people were wondering what I was doing there.
And the problem with believing something so deeply, is that even if it’s not actually true, you will unconsciously do what you need to in order to make it true.
Gradually, I began to let go of doing physical activity, believing that it “wasn’t for me”, and as I started to put weight on I didn’t even really notice. I already believed I was fat, and what I saw in the mirror simply reflected what I already knew to be true. As my weight crept up, any attempts to exercise grew more difficult than they had been, which only served to cement my belief that my body was inadequate. Innately, I was not enough.
A few weeks ago I suddenly heard my internal monologue for what it was. I don’t know what triggered it exactly, but I was out for a walk and all at once I heard, really heard, the words circling around in my head. “Not built for this, going so slow, for some people it’s easy, just am not that type…”
I was shocked at how I could be feeling defeated while I was doing well and taking care of my body. Then all at once, the realization came crashing down on me: I’ve been letting other people tell me who I am. And I’m 32 years old and still believe it.
Holy shit. That’s a lot.
So now I’m trying to work through this mental block, and to really see myself instead of seeing this strange version of me that has been standing in the way the whole time. I’m trying to listen to my body and hear what it is telling me, and turning down the volume on the voice that other people put into my head… the voice that keeps telling me, “It’s no use, that’s just not who you are”. As if that stupid voice knows jack shit about who I am.
I wanted to share this to let you know that nobody gets to tell you what you’re capable of. Not one single goddamn person. It can be difficult to be who you really are at times, because that false version of yourself is often is all you have let people see, and when you stop acting like the version they’re familiar with it can be a little jarring. But you know what? They’ll get over it. They’ll be fine. It’s you that you need to worry about.
So get out there, and listen for that little voice, and tell it to get lost when it tries to whisper to you. It doesn’t know you, and it’s not welcome in your house anymore. You’re the boss now. Kick that little shit to the curb.