Posts Tagged ‘self-love’

During the show, I have a lot of time to kill. Most of the time, I knit. There are some days, however, where I’m falling asleep behind the board and I turn to the internets to keep me entertained and awake. I’m not a member of Reddit, but when I run out of blogs to read and Pins to pin, I sometimes turn to the site for cute videos of funny animals.

Today, a particular thread caught my eye. The question was “Lots of people talk about not being part of the ‘popular kids’ in high school. I think it’s time we heard the popular kids’ side of the story. So, if you were popular in school, what was that like and how has that experience affected the rest of your life?” Find the original thread here.

So I thought I’d answer it. Again, not a member of Reddit, so I don’t have posting privileges. But I have this space, and it seemed like an interesting jumping-off point.

I was desperately, painfully unpopular in Elementary and Junior High school. I got picked on mercilessly by the girls in my class from grades K-6, and the boys started to notice and joined in about then and helped through grade 8. In a class of GT (gifted and talented) nerds, I was one of the nerdiest. I got mocked for my second-hand clothes, for my know-it-all-ness, for my glasses and braces and red hair and crooked teeth. I was not pretty, and I was excruciatingly shy. Add to this a tendency always to have my nose in a book, and you have a recipe for Dweeb.

Things began to change in high school. I still wasn’t cool, and I was still too shy, but I managed to make a few friends that shared my interests and taught me some new things. I got involved in clubs and Drama and spent lots of time with people who loved the same things I did and cared as passionately about getting good grades and going to college as I did. I was always aware of being an outsider, but it began to matter less because I’d found somewhere else I could feel “inside.” It was around this time that I started to molt out of my Ugly Duckling phase as well, and I started having boyfriends. That’ll do wonders for a girl’s self-esteem, even if it’s not the healthiest. I began to figure out who I was, and having my own personality made it harder for other people to define me. So I wasn’t one of the “Cool Kids,” but I was popular enough – people liked me and I liked people, and I didn’t have to worry so much anymore about what might make me cool.

How has this affected the rest of my life? I learned not to worry so much about having the right friends, and concentrated on having friends in general. I learned that there is a difference between being liked and being popular, and it mostly has to do with things that don’t matter. And I learned that finding a space I was comfortable in did a lot to eliminate my anxiety over other people’s negative image of me. I was able to make a choice about what I cared about and what I thought was important, and then do my best to live up to those standards. If someone else thought that taking calculus was nerdy, or that it was lame that I didn’t want to skip class and go to the mall, that was fine with me. It was a club I didn’t want to belong to. That’s served me well as I’ve made decisions as an adult. I took a job I wanted to do, even though it was different. I married a man who I love and who loves me, even though he’s not a doctor or a lawyer or a supermodel. I have dear friends who were also not cool kids, and who have tremendous compassion as a result of that experience. And you’ll be glad to know that all that studying paid off – I got into a good college, and from there I did all the things that have evolved into a life I love and am proud of.

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Shifu was out of town on Monday night, so some of the high-ranked students led us in a review of Nan Chuan. It’s a form from the Southern Fist style of Wu Shu, and is easily the most difficult form that we learn as a part of our regular curriculum. Shifu went to China several times to learn and refine this form, and we begin learning it, at least in small pieces, as early as white belt. For my red belt test this summer, I had to know the first third or so; for brown belt, you’re supposed to know the whole thing (SUPPOSED to).

We worked on the section between :54 and 1:11 (but watch the whole thing; this is Chen LiHong and she’s AMAZING.)  The net result of that body drop followed by jumping back up, repeated ad nauseum, is that my left hamstring has been aching for the last two days. Today I was finally able to stretch some of the cramp out, but making my way up and down the stairs at work is a project.

It’s that awesome kind of hurt that tells you you’ve really done something with yourself. If you’d shown me this video ten years ago and said to me “You can do this,” I’d have looked at you and laughed. Discovering that I was strong enough to carry a light up a ladder or nimble enough to walk through the rafters when I was in college did the work of getting me out of my head and really into  my body for the first time in my life, but learning martial arts made me love being there.

Women in western culture are bombarded with ideals of beauty, blah blah blah. Being good feminists, we’ve all heard this argument before. We see, hear, and feel all this crap around us; even when we’re raised in loving families by women with positive body images, we know we’re supposed to be white, thin, and blonde by the time we’re six. Some of us get away lightly; we just have days (or weeks or months) where we think we’re ugly, or fat, or we hate our hair or skin or the dimples on our thighs. Some women succumb to the more sinister aspects of this early conditioning and develop eating disorders or various forms of OCD. Some just get really, really depressed at the thought of looking themselves in the mirror every morning. I’ve had bad days myself, and I don’t know a single woman who hasn’t had these thoughts at one time or another.

For me, the magic bullet has been making my body into a tool I can use to do amazing things. I know that there are stories of dancers and gymnasts who starve themselves nearly to death, and anorexics who exercise themselves into nothing. But for me, it was like opening my eyes for the first time. How can I hate something that can kick over my head? What’s not to love about the arms that can do one more push-up today than they did yesterday? When I learn a new move, or execute a perfect throw, or hoist 80 pounds of socapex cable on my shoulder and carry it up three flights of stairs, I am proud of my body. I love the bones and muscles that make it go, the fine work that my hands can do, and the things that I know make me beautiful. Sure, I’d love for my skin to be clearer or my abs to be more defined, but at the end of the day I’m ok with how I turned out.

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