When I was in high school, I weighed maybe 90 pounds sopping wet, wore gigantic bifocal glasses, had shiny braces bigger than my face, and was called “chicken legs” every day at P.E. This was how I had been my whole life, even as a young girl my knees were always scabbed over, my hair was never brushed, and when my mom would put me in something nice to wear, within a mere instant, it was covered in mud or bird poop or _________. I probably heard her say daily that she was going to have to “Scotch Guard” my wedding dress someday, while my dad nicknamed me the Muck Monster.
The benefit of this was that I was never treated like a pretty object as a kid. No one ever walked up to me and said, “Oh my gosh, you look so nice today.” I was a do-er and an impressive athlete, and my sense of identity truly did form from my function and not from appearance. I don’t even remember feeling badly about how I looked, except when high school kids made fun of my legs or people asked about my raccoon eyes (from being so skinny) or laughed at the fact that I have a “sixhead” instead of a forehead. But, none of it really stuck. For better or worse, I placed my value on my physical ability and not physical strength.
That is, at least, until Junior year of high school. That’s when the puberty fairy finally hit and, boom, quite literally overnight, I had boobs and a fuller face and all of it. I started wearing contacts, my braces came off, and all the years of ballet and athletics had made my body something I soon learned was exactly the “pretty” object society had decided was valuable. Peers started inviting me to parties at school. Boys started to whisper, talk to me in class, offer to help with homework, and used the word “blossom” when they spoke about me. Even teachers started responding to me differently, especially the male ones. It was more embarrassing and distressing than the “sixhead,” I’ll tell you that. I suddenly learned what we all know: Young girls and women are valuable for how we look and not what we do.
The difference for me was that I saw it clear as day. I saw what it was like when I was not physically attractive in the way society has deemed beautiful. And then I saw what it was like when I was. I wasn’t any different inside, in fact, in some ways, the real me started to get clouded over the more this “blossoming” occurred. If anything, I was less myself as it all unfolded. And, yet, I had more access and more value in every single aspect of the world around me. This truth was oppressive to my life from there on out.
Here’s why I am saying all this: We live in a world today where the full function of every woman is needed. Right now, we need us each to be active, engaged, and able. It’s dire. It’s no longer just a hope or a dream, it’s an urgent need. The problem is that we’ve made access to being active, engaged, and able less available due to an industry of wellness that focuses on how we look and not what we do. And the result of this focus is that we have exercise programs that address the surface stuff and they require a lot of our time, money, and spirit. The process for being well and being able has turned into such a big deal, that we as women feel torn between the big deal of being well and the big deal of being active in the world.
We can’t make that choice. We need to be well in order to be active. We need to not be in physical pain in order to do the work the world needs us to do, and still go home and be available - truly available - for our kids. We can’t keep burning ourselves out in the name of trying to own our birthrights. Our kids suffer, our communities suffer, and we suffer.
I know this all sounds dramatic, but I feel like it’s important to let you in on a secret: Being well is just not a big deal. It just isn’t. You don’t need any equipment. You don’t need to spend more money. You don’t need to spend more time. Here’s exactly how hard your true wellness is:
In honor of this secret, MommaStrong is launching a challenge for the entire month of November, in which we are encouraging you to decide with us that it’s not a big deal to be fit and well. This is our way of saying to each woman we know, “Hey, you are needed and your action in this world is the actual real big deal.” We will help you see that with micro efforts in the realm of your health, your ability to engage in the macro stuff is much more available. We will help you feel what it feels like to actually be present with your kids and help them secure attachments with you that will outlast the chaos the world will surely throw at them. This is a big deal. This is what you, gorgeous woman, ought to be spending your time and spirit on. The fitness stuff? Truly, it’s just not a big deal.
You have today, Thursday, through tomorrow Friday (at 11:59pm PST) to sign up for the November “It’s Not a Big Deal” Challenge. The process is simple: We simply want you to show up for yourself with ANY physical activity of your choice for the next 30 days. We have tools to help you do that, accountability strategies to make it easier, and even prizes to keep you going. Invite friends, tell yo momma, but line up yourself right away.
We will see you and your inner Muck Monster very, very soon.