So there I was, I made it. Los Angeles, Carson, THE CrossFit Games baby!
Athlete’s dinner: check. “Wow, look at all these people I have only known via Internet. Gorgeous people! look at those muscles and so lean!”
Interview with ESPN: check. “That’s funny. It is the first time that I do a kettlebell swing with makeup on!”
Try out new gear: “Oooo, look at all this stuff! Love the tops, the pants!” Tinny shorts and bathing suit: “uh oh” (gulp).
So there I was at the CrossFit Games, I was about to embark on a massive journey, and one of my stumbling blocks is a pair of shorts I was given. After all “who wants to see those chunky legs and that cellulite! There will be cameras!”
Really Carla? Really?!
Carla in the ‘offending’ shorts during one of the grueling workouts at the Crossfit Games.
I grew up a skinny girl in Angola and was made fun of for it. “Dressed broom” they called me. Add to it a background where the only feedback I received was that pertaining to “negative” behavior. I heard what I did wrong, so much for what I did well. Not the best way to lay the foundation to a high sense of self I’d say. Ah, I suppose they did the best they could.
Now, if you want to mess it up even more, add a first love who used to tell you were fat and pinched your stomach as he said it.
Oh no wait!, it gets better: chip a front tooth, get the worse acne as a teenager and have people call you ugly duckling. Now that should do it! No? How about a religious parent who chose your clothes for you? Oh, the pictures, the pictures!
No? How about failed relationships?
Oh and and by the way and before we proceed, let me clarify that I am not asking for pity, I am just giving you a bit of a background to what I am about to tell you.
As a child in Africa I was physically active. I ran, I jumped. No sitting still.
It all changed when as a teenager I decided that I was too cool to sweat. (oh silly girl).The only exercise I did was ride my pink skate board and follow Jane Fonda’s buns and tights workout (oh, Lord help me!) in my parents’ living room. The doors were always locked because God forbid anyone would see and ridicule me!
Mind you, the exercising to Jane Fonda only started after said boy started telling me I was fat at the age of 16. Up to that point in my mind I was a Dressed Broom Tom Boy who really wasn’t too concerned with her looks.
Things changed and for years I struggled with how I saw myself. There was always something “wrong”: too soft, too big, too skinny, too little fat… it was never quite right. (come to think of it, how boring).
Even when I became a competitive kayaker and became so lean that I had an 8 pack (yes you’ve read it right) I was still unsure about my body. there was always something not quite right with it. Oh the self judgments, worse yet, the judgment of others, their figures, their lifestyle choices. At first I thought it was all about them but no, I learnt in time that it was me projecting my own fears and insecurities on them.
Throughout the years, I did a great deal of (internal) work on myself and things did change. I stopped judging others and what peace it brought me. I could finally see the human, the soul in its full intricacies. How beautiful to just see, to just observe. No background noise!
There is so much to every single human out there. It goes from the six pack man or woman, to the African mama who is big by anyone’s standard yet so confident in her stride that she walks down that street like she owns the world. How I admire and envy her.
Beauty to me also means watching a woman come into our gym and see her change her idea of self. Her walking changes, her clothes change, heck how she stands and looks at the world changes too! I also see it in music, in the nerd who pulls a computer apart only to put it back together again while they tell you all about each piece. The way someone laughs. I love big belly laughs. Or even how someone is capable of writing a closing argument so beautifully, the words just flow. Random perhaps? Maybe not if I told you that I have legal background.
For years my demons lay dormant and I figured that as I had stopped judging others, it meant that deep inside I was also at peace with myself. But was I really?
How does one, after all these years find oneself having trouble putting on a pair of shorts at the CrossFit Games because “I am not as lean as all the other amazing ladies” and ” who wants to see that?!”. How on earth is it still about that? Does it make me a hypocrite? Does it disqualify me from wanting to help others?
I guess these are good questions. I don’t know the answer.
What I do question is how it is possible that after all these years of work with myself and others, when taken out of its comfort zone, my internal dialogue goes crazy and just as I am about to embark on a massive journey, one of my stumbling blocks is a pair of shorts I was given as part of my competitor gear. Because God forbid someone saw these “chunky legs and that cellulite! OMG There will be cameras!”
How can I show love and compassion to others yet be so rigid and hard with myself? How about some self acceptance miss Carla?
Oh and those legs you were moaning about, how about recognizing that they get you places, that they can drag heavy things around and that you can walk thank you very much?
How ingrained is this “not good enough” message?
I read somewhere that “what you do not own, owns you”.
So I guess that the first thing to self acceptance is to own that I, Carla, after all these years, do in fact judge my body and say things about it in my head that I would not say to a friend.
My first step that day was to wear those darn shorts, and then I wore them again.