Written by Adrienne Thomas
Like many of my fellow strong, barbell bending, powerlifting ladies I have a story. While each of our journeys may differ in various ways they often share similar lessons and sentiments. A common trend being the ways in which powerlifting helped us to break through mental barriers that we faced at previous points in our lives. Whether those barriers were battling eating disorders, body dysmorphia, self confidence issues, break ups, mental disorders and so forth, powerlifting became our outlet. Regardless of what brought us to strength training, powerlifting became a catalyst for change in our lives, and it was beautiful. Through powerlifting we were able to find beauty in our ability to progress. To see the hard work, grind, sweat and sometimes tears (in my case a lot of tears) come to fruition. Instead of focusing what our bodies looked like we began focusing on what our bodies could do the strong immaculate machines that are the human body. I mean the human body itself is pretty miraculous. The way each part works together effortlessly, without our conscious knowledge. It circulates blood through our veins, inhales and exhales air. Machines that run themselves. Creating life. Creating nutrition. Humans are badass and we women are badass. We all have different traits, characteristics and beliefs that shape each and every one of us into a unique being. We are each a one of a kind individual who will never be duplicated and it was not until I started powerlifting that I was reminded of that.
It is easy to forget how awesome we are when all the messages around us suggest the opposite. We enter this world being trained intentionally and unintentionally on the ways in which we should act within it. We are presented a hierarchy, an unspoken law of the world that we should follow based on our race, gender, religion, sexual orientation and so forth. Through interactions with educator’s parents, relatives and even strangers we are conditioned and trained on how to not only “be ourselves” but how others “should “act also. Even if we don’t outwardly acknowledge these norms associated with individual groups we do notice when someone possesses traits not normally associated with their normative groups. Hence why you hear people say things like “You are strong for a girl.” or “You are bulky for a girl.” We are being conditioned through actions and observations on ways to fit into society all while we are being told another message. A message about “being ourselves and individuality.” So we sit in confusion because all of the things we are being told directly contradict all the things that we are observing. While many preach self love and acceptance it is often only encouraged if it continues the societal norms or does not stray too far from them.
- We women can be strong and intelligent...But not too strong or too intelligent because we don’t want to intimidate the men
- We minority woman should be proud of our culture…. but not too proud. Don’t flaunt it or draw too much attention it could make others uncomfortable.
- We women can be curvy or thick and love ourselves…… well … only if you are below some random point on an imaginary curvy scale that dictates exactly how many curves are acceptable.
As we pull back our blindfolds we start to fully see this false presentation of freedom. That even the “love yourself” message is presented within a box. It is only okay to love yourself if you fit within that box. So we remain in this limbo of a space for the majority of our lives, trying to find a balance. Finding ways to be ourselves… but in the cool way, you know, a way that is still normal, socially acceptable. We want to be honest, but not to honest. It is easy to get stuck in this space. Falling victim the contradictory nature of this set up, constantly teetering in and out of acceptance. So we search for an outlet of some sort. An outlet that will help us manage all the feels, changes and uncertainty we face in our lives. For some of us that outlet is painting, singing, dancing, writing or lifting but whatever it is that outlet keeps us grounded, confident and strong. Our outlets can help connect us to like minded women and give us a platform to share our trials beliefs and joys and that is what we have here with GWPL. We are a group of women, working to defy societal norms all while trying to find our identity in this crazy world, and it is beautiful.
BUT.. It cannot be everything!
Yes! I said it and I know what you are thinking…. But hear me out! There is nothing wrong with being dedicated to our sport, we can excel and find power within our craft while also finding strength outside of it. Which is a topic I think we often fail to address within the sport, and a topic I find myself struggling with, even to this day. Often in our battle against societal norms and our journey for self discovery we hop from one obsession to the other. And where one obsession once stood absorbing all of our being we have now replaced it with another and we need to talk about that. This relationship can be unhealthy and result in devastation when things do not go as planned. We miss a lift, injure ourselves or we have a bad meet. While all of these events are less than favorable they should not be the end of the world. But if we have placed all of our value, all of our self worth and all of our identity into one outlet it makes sense that it would reap havoc upon us mentally, emotionally and sometimes physically when things do not go as planned. Even as I write this I am 2 weeks out from a meet and this prep has been a rollercoaster. When I started prep I was in the middle of a stressful school semester, a job that was sucking out my soul and I was desperately searching for something to grab hold to. It ended up being this prep. I ended up pouring myself into it, because it was the only way for me to deal with the chaos that was my life. And honestly it felt good. Amazing to be grinding it out and seeing that hard work pay off in one area of my life, but then something happened. Blame it on my programming, lifestyle changes whatever the cause, the last month of prep was not going as planned and it was starting to literally break me. I was spending hours stressing over my lifts, crying after training sessions. Having little to no social interactions out of fear it would hurt my performance. I was a wreck and it wasn’t really until writing this that I saw that. This is why it is so important for us not use our outlets to fix our problems but to find strength so we can brave through them. Now, don’t confuse my words. I am in no way saying we should not train our tails off and leave it all on the platform but I want us to remember this outlet we have chosen, while amazing DOES NOT DEFINE US. It is not all we are or all we have to offer and if we treat it as such then how do we identify ourselves without it. We are more than our societal norms and more than our outlets.
This sport has given me more courage than I could ever have dreamed of and has encouraged me to seek strength and freedom outside the gym. Powerlifting did not fix my problems, it gave me the strength and courage to fight through them. I live knowing everyday is an opportunity for growth. My journey is not over and every day I strive for better but that does not mean every day I wake and bake a cake filled with rainbows and smiles #meangirls. Some days I am the conductor of the struggle train. Some days the only way I can make it through is repeating to myself, “I am enough.” “ I am enough.” Regardless of the events of the day, “I am enough.” While there are obviously a multitude of things that contribute to our identities, in the end, we in our most simple forms are enough. So fight for your joy in every little aspect of your life. Use this beautiful sport to become a stronger version of yourself. Observe life graciously and passionately. Let yourself be free and unapologetic about it. You get to be happy. You get to be sad, upset, excited, in love, heartbroken, fearless, terrified, and nervous and all the things in between. Do not box yourself or try to define yourself as one specific thing because you are so much more than the ceiling society places on you. Be yourself and don’t ever apologize for it. Encourage others to do the same. Be unapologetically you, and the rest will follow.
CLICK HERE TO SHOP GWPL