Sometimes opportunities to observe the different socialization of men and women come when you least expect. I was out at Lake Mead at 6:30 a.m. today to support my husband as he did the Rage in the Sage triathlon.
I happily cheered, snapped photos and served as equipment manager when necessary. But there’s a lot of down-time when you are a spectator at a triathlon. You have to walk a ways between each stage (swim-bike-run) and it takes time before you see your loved one go by. A lot of times people watching start talking to each other.
A gender-based pattern kept popping up among athletes (there were different levels of tris today so some people finished well ahead of others depending on their level). I noticed that women — who by the way were some of the most physically fit human specimens I’d ever seen — would tell each other how bad they did at different stages or how they need to get better at this-or-that. Meanwhile, men seemed much more comfortable with their success and accomplishment. I heard many different guys saying to other guy friends, “I passed so many people on the bike.” Or things of that nature.
So essentially, even though the majority of the men and women at this event were at the same caliber of fitness (and, in fact, women are highly encouraged in endurance sports as I heard the announcer and crowd really get revved every time women crossed the finish line) — the women were uncomfortable or unwilling to celebrate their success. At least in the public way the men were. These are people who just swam-cycled-ran for between an hour+ and two-hours+. What’s wrong with giving yourself a pat on the back? That’s an amazing accomplishment and not something that a lot of people can do! I’m not advocating insane egos, but why the negative talk ladies? (And I’m sort of ignoring those who were just passive-agressively seeking praise by trashing themselves.)
Frankly, the talk I heard just seemed like another variation on the old junior high bathroom talk: Ugh, I’m so fat. You’re much prettier than I am. I wish my hair was as long as yours. That boy/girl would never go out with me. Etc. And that is all part of girls learning to equate being “pretty” with being good at being a girl.
It’s got to stop!
Now, some girls as they mature into women stop doing that (at least out loud) when it comes to their looks. (But there’s plenty of women out there who don’t.) But I think even if women stop talking bad about their bodies, I still know plenty of women who can’t feel good about how amazing, intelligent and accomplished they are. Why do you have to preface an idea with, “This might be a dumb idea …” (Which I admit is something I do sometimes) Why do we play down our abilities in front of each other? What’s wrong with owning your brilliance or your beauty or your abillities in whatever it is you do?
I think it all stems from that age-old societal norm about girls/women not appearing to be proud, egotistical or a bitch. We play ourselves down so we don’t threaten men. We play ourselves down because we don’t want to threaten other women. And, I think we play ourselves down because we spend so much time beating ourselves up in our own minds that eventually it’s bound to leak out.
We have so many pressures as women in this society. To be thin enough. Pretty enough. Smart enough. Domestic-godess enough. But men don’t dwell on these things or spend nearly as much time hating on themselves as women do. (I realize this is a broad generalization, but I think in broad strokes this is right. And of course I realize some women are confident and some men are self-loathing.)
And in the end, it becomes a self-perpetuating cycle. I don’t know how many of the women at the tri today have children but I’m sure some do. And some of those kids are girls. When we openly hate on our amazing accomplishments in front of girls we are saying, “Don’t have confidence in yourself. And if you try something, you’ll still never be perfect.”
We have to stop this cycle of hating ourselves and seeking validation from other women through hating on ourselves! I mean, I was in awe of these women today and all I heard out of their mouths was how bad they did. And it started me thinking that maybe I’d never be good enough to accomplish even my smaller goals (in comparison), like running a 5K. But that’s exactly how that kind of thinking and acting becomes toxic!
We have to have the strength in ourselves and the confidence to celebrate when we do something amazing! It’s time to own your own kick-ass ways!