She told me, “I finally bench pressed 95 pounds! That’s been my goal for a long time and I finally hit it. But, I know it’s not that impressive since there are lots of women who lift much more than that.”
My response: “No, what you mean is, ‘I bench pressed 95 pounds and I’m proud!’ It doesn’t matter how much anyone else is lifting — this is a big personal record you earned. Be proud! There are no qualifiers needed for you relish your achievement.”
Why do we do this? Why do we add disqualifiers like “but” and “just” and “only” to our achievements in the gym?
But she can run much faster and further …
It was “only” 95 pounds …
It was “just” one push-up …
Women everywhere are comparing their personal records and performance to the other women at their gym; the women on social media; the woman they were 10 years ago; the idea of where they think they should be now.
That leads to belittling and disqualifying the awesome things they do in the gym. They feel momentary excitement and empowerment from reaching a milestone and setting a personal record only to quickly deflate that sense of achievement by comparing themselves to someone else, or what they were capable of when they were younger, or where they think they should be at that stage in their fitness journey.
And it needs to stop.
Here’s a 75-second video to bring this to life:
Did you bench press a 45-pound barbell for the first time? Be proud!
Did you bench press 145 pounds for the first time? Be proud!
Did you walk a mile without getting out of breath for the first time? Be proud!
Did you lift the heavy dumbbells that used to intimidate the hell out of you? Be proud!
Did you do a push-up or chin-up for the first time? Be proud!
Did you get out of your comfort zone and venture to the part of the gym that’s usually filled with men because you’re ready to learn to lift? Be proud!
Did you deadlift your bodyweight for the first time? Did you deadlift twice your bodyweight for the first time? Be. Proud.
There is no personal victory “too small” to celebrate. Everyone has their own journey, and we’re all at different points in our respective journeys. You may be on Level 5 of yours, the woman next to you at the gym may be at Level 20, and the newbie who just joined is at Level 1. And another woman’s Level 5 may very well look different than your Level 5.
We should all celebrate what we achieve, free from unnecessary and degrading disqualifiers.
But I …
“But I used to a lot stronger/in better shape/a lot faster,” someone may say.
So what. This is where you are now. All you can do is work with what you have, progress from where you are right now, and be happy to continue going forward. Really, what other (good) option do you have?
“But I feel like I should be a lot stronger/faster/fitter than I am,” someone else may say.
Look at it this way: Regardless of where you’re at in your journey right now, you have more room to get stronger, be faster, be better conditioned, build more muscle, whatever the case may be. You’ve made progress that you should be proud of, and you should be excited to continue doing even more.
Women everywhere, go earn some more personal records in whatever fashion you choose: with strength training, with cardio, a combination of both, whatever you prefer. Celebrate them happily. Use them as motivation to discover what else you’re capable of doing.
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