Musings | The art of self-deprecation: it’s not cultivating positive relationships

April 28, 2016

Personal experiences

During my junior year of high school, I started running and lifting (ever so slowly!) with the encouragement of a couple of girlfriends. I joined the cross country team that summer and ran my senior year (read: I lost 30 lbs and it was freaking HARD).

It was like I had unleashed a part of me that I didn’t know existed. I barely whispered, “athlete”, because it had seemed like such a foreign concept and I was unworthy of the title. I liked running and I liked lifting. I enjoyed getting sweaty on a hot summer’s day and pushing myself to add weights to the lat pulldown at the gym. It felt incredible!

However, I found that conversations with friends changed and became awkward around the subject of working out and health. What could have been a productive conversation, turned into awkward silence and recovery statements.

This conversation occurred the summer after my junior year of high school –

Me: Eh, I don’t really want any chips. I’m good!

2 friends, exasperated: Oh my gosh, you can eat chips! You’re skinny!

It had NOTHING to do with being skinny. It had everything to do with my own self-discipline and the fact that I actually just didn’t want to eat any chips. I wasn’t restricting my caloric intake. I was running all summer. I was eating tons of protein to keep up!

Why did they care if I was eating chips or not? I certainly didn’t care if they had chips. I wasn’t even thinking about it!

This conversation occurred in college –

Me: I’m going to pass on the pizza. I’ll have a salad!

Friends: What? Why?? We’re out to eat! Treat yourself! You’re fine!

Again, my choice of salad had NOTHING to do with “being fine”. It had everything to do with the fact that my choice made ME feel better and I actually enjoy eating salads. Is that a crime??

Why did they care if I chose a salad instead of a sandwich or entree or app? I didn’t care what they chose. I cared about what I was eating and what I thought would taste good.

This might seem harsh, but this is coming from someone who enjoys lifting and enjoys running and enjoys a really sweaty bike ride on a hot summer’s day. I like it. I enjoy it. It’s what I do to de-stress, get a workout in and keep moving.

Why self-deprecation?

Before we jump in, let’s define self-deprecation:

Self-deprecation is the act of reprimanding oneself by belittling, undervaluing, or disparaging oneself, or being excessively modest. It can be used in humor and tension release.

I share my personal encounters to give context to my frustration and my sadness in the way that women treat each other. It’s frustrating and it’s unnecessary.

Instead of celebrating each other’s accomplishments, especially when it comes to health, we immediately size ourselves up, reflect on the ways we haven’t accomplished a race, a workout, a heavy lift, etc. and we beat ourselves up and try to make light of it.

We’ve all seen the memes, read the stories, had the conversations… it’s awkward, it’s frustrating and it’s unproductive.

I’m not advocating for a certain size, a certain lifestyle, a certain health habit. I’m advocating for embracing where we are RIGHT NOW and embracing other women who are at different points in their journey than we might be as individuals. We all have a unique path and a unique journey that we have the opportunity to participate in.

I’m a part of an amazing group of women on a private Facebook group and the purpose of the group is to share daily workouts, inspire each other, ask questions, seek community and to give each other life and praise for accomplishments. Maybe it’s a half-marathon training run that someone went on or it’s an individual who went to the gym even though they had a bad day (we’ve all been there!). That is totally worth sharing and celebrating!

Instead of looking at fitness posts or fit women and slamming yourself, step outside of yourself and mentally congratulate that woman for her accomplishments and successes. Fitness doesn’t happen over night for ANYONE and it’s not something that naturally comes about. It takes self-discipline, hard work and dedication. And that’s amazing!

There are so many women in my own life who inspire me in their fitness aspirations and so many women that I follow on Instagram who provide the daily boost I need to remember that the self-hate and self-deprecation of workouts is not worth it and it’s a roadblock to success.

If we cultivate insecurities surrounding our health and wellbeing, what else are we holding ourselves back from?

Is there an alternative?

I challenge all women – myself included – to change our perspectives and to celebrate the women around us. The celebration should include our own accomplishments, too! When a woman shares her success in a race or in getting to the gym 3x/week, HONOR THAT WOMAN! Celebrate her and encourage her! That is a huge feat! We all have our inner demons that hold us back from taking care of ourselves.

If you go for a walk on a night that you would rather watch Netflix, recognize that accomplishment and celebrate it! You chose to take care of your body!

Instead of putting yourself down by a self-deprecating comment, recognize what that other woman just told you and build her up in her accomplishments. It’s not about you and it’s not worth giving attention to that little voice in your head that tells you that you’re not enough.Shut that voice down.

The only way to fight the body image crap in our culture is by creating and cultivating grassroots movements of positive conversations, love and respect among the women in our own lives!

Next time you think about telling some girl to eat the chips because she looks skinny, remember her worth and your own worth. Celebrate the successes. Recognize that every journey is different and we all have rough spots.

Honor your sisters around you. Celebrate the successes. Build each other up.

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