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Moving Past Female Perfection in the Gym and in Our Lives
“Female perfection” is the constant pressure that we, as women, seem to put on ourselves: pressure to be perfectly successful at our careers, our families, our relationships with others, our appearance, at everything all at once. We are quick to compare ourselves to other women. We focus on those we judge as having it all together. In comparison, we seem to always fall short. It doesn’t matter if we have 9 out of 10 things going right: We focus on the one thing that isn’t.
It’s not a surprise that “female perfection” works its way into our experience in a CrossFit Gym. It usually involves some comparisons to others: “She is so much stronger than I am” or “She just started CrossFit and she is already better than me.” We tend to talk negatively about ourselves. Haven’t we all said, “I suck at…”? Even when we are good at something, we are quick to downplay it. Someone says, “You’re so good at double-unders.” We say, “Yeah, but…”
The disheartening truth is that being stuck in the attitude of “I am never enough” impacts us greatly.
It puts a damper on our happiness, our performance, and our potential as an athlete. However, once we become aware of how this attitude works against us,
we can make a conscious effort to change it.
One of the keys to overcoming a perfectionist attitude is to “recognize your strengths along with your weaknesses,” according to Dr. Sharon Drake Petra, a sports psychologist and performance coach (Head-Coaching.com). She says that confident athletes “trust their strengths and abilities.”
We need to be proud of what we do well, just as we need to work hard on the things that we don’t do well. Start by making a list. At CrossFit, what are we good at both physically and mentally? We can acknowledge these strengths in private and gracefully accept the praise we receive in public. We can be committed to working hard on our weaknesses while being simultaneously confident in our strengths. Both choices will make us a better athlete.
How we speak about ourselves can impact both our performance and our enjoyment in our workouts. Greg Amundson, one of the original CrossFitters, tells many stories in the CrossFit Goal Setting Seminar (CrossFitGoalSetting.com) about the power of words. “Many people have a higher threshold for bad feelings than good feelings, meaning they are more likely to put self-imposed limitations on what they are capable of achieving,” he says. Those limitations pervade our thoughts and are often spoken out loud.
“Imagine if we had an immense capacity to be our own biggest fan, our own cheering squad, and our own voice of support. We could do anything,” Amundson says. A simple shift in the internal and external dialog to
the positive can make us happier and even faster. We can become conscious of how we speak about ourselves and make a choice to not put ourselves down or discredit ourselves. We can change “I suck at…” to “I’m working on…” We can find simple affirmations to say to ourselves at the gym.
One of the biggest shifts we can make is to stop comparing ourselves to others. There is always going to be someone next to us doing something faster and better. Instead of using her as our comparison, we can turn our attention to ourselves. We can take an honest look at what we have to work with, physically and mentally, each WOD. Our skills and abilities are what they are in that moment. Spending all of our energy feeling badly about what we cannot do takes away from our ability to give all we can to the task at hand. When we are able to accept rather than lament, we have the space to give 110%.
As a result, we will discover our highest possibilities.
As female CrossFitters, we have a unique opportunity: Our workouts can be practice for our lives. If we can stop feeling “less than” and master letting go of the need to be perfect within the walls of our box, it will translate into the rest of our lives. Imagine what it would be like for us to feel confident and satisfied with our performances in our career and our relationships? Although it seems as if our need to be perfect would be a driving force in our getting better, it is the very opposite. It is what limits us. When we can be confident, accepting and grounded in ourselves, joy and potential will manifest in the gym and in our lives.
Stephanie Vincent is a CrossFit Trainer, Freelance Writer and Life Coach. She works with women who want to experience transformations in their relationships with their bodies, many of whom are CrossFitters. Find more information about Stephanie at www.radicalhateloss.com.