Today, I refuse to construct a version of myself for the Internet that suggests I a/ am superhuman b/ have my shit totally together or c/ do not have some really crappy mental hangups. I’m not going to play the “make duckface so Internet thinks I have good bone structure” self-depiction game. You want to see how I look during a meet? Want a reminder?
There you go. This sport is not all pretty. In fact, it’s arguably largely not-pretty. All photos of me taken at meets have a 90% of likelihood of coming out with me looking horrifying and bloated. The content of today’s post will show a similarly mishappen side of my experience with lifting, albeit a mental one rather than aesthetic. Before you read the following entry, please take a minute to watch this video. I’ve been adding commentary to my videos recently, so hopefully this makes them more sufferable/slightly less monotonous. Shit, I should not have just written “monotonous.” Now none of your are going to watch. I’m not wearing much in this video! Lots of thigh! Lots of really pasty thigh! Check it out!
Every time I hear a reference to the “type-A personality,” I wince. Not visibly, probably–I’m told my face is molded into an expression of either mild disgust or crazed enthusiasm about 70% and 30% of the time, respectively. I do wince internally, though. Those who have type-A psyches are often the people who get labeled as crazy, obsessive, anal. Am I all of those things? Yes. Do those traits support my lifting? Only in some ways. I “get in my way” mentally, as Kyle likes to put it, quite easily. What might be a somewhat small issue with a lift will turn into an enormous piece of evidence that I’m a worthless human being (aka a shoddy lifter) if I let it. I don’t always let it; sometimes I’m very reasonable about trying to problem-solve and not judging myself by the fact that my right hip is dominant and it sure as hell shows up on squats sometimes if I’m not paying attention to it.
Sometimes, though, I go through periods in which small mistakes become catalytic fuel for my overdeveloped self-criticism skills. A string of stuff I’m messing up in lifting–timing, form, breathing, form, programming, form, etc–turns into a series of facts that shouldn’t be the standard by which I judge myself, but by which I do end up judging myself. If I’m honest about things, which I’m being here even though it’s not particularly fantastic to feel like one is making oneself vulnerable to anonymous and silent masses, sometimes mistakes I make and problems I have with my lifting make me feel as bad about myself and as, say, someone should feel if they ran over a dog with their car. Coming home from lifting sessions during these periods means a few hours of drowning in self-loathing.
“Holy shit,” you’re thinking, “this does not sound remotely healthy.” You know what? No, it doesn’t. But I don’t want to omit this from the documentation I am making of my powerlifting experience. It’s not all pretty, it’s not all “rah-rah, I’m a strong girl, I’m going to smash those weights and I’m so awesome and look how hot I am in my ‘lift like a girl’ tank top I RULE THE WORLD LOOK AT MY QUADS!” For the record, I hate, with dedication, the phrase “lift like a girl” and I do not own such a tank top and I never tell anyone to look at my quads unless Kyle and I are discussing how well I would or would not do in a physique contest and my legs are the body part/piece of meat upon which focus is being placed. Every lifter has his or her own issues to work through. Those of us who take it incredibly seriously often find ourselves emotionally entangled in outcomes from lifting sessions. We struggle to understand how we define ourselves as lifters, men, women, training partners, team members, leaders, learners, teachers.
I go through my disappointments. My “type-A” yoke means sometimes I can’t emotionally separate myself from things that happen day to day in training. This doesn’t mean I can’t work on the issue–frankly, I suspect a more Buddhist approach to attachment/detachment would benefit my mindset and sometimes I do indeed check in with aspects of said philosophy system to try to help myself think more productively about something.
If you’re really invested in your training, sometimes the depth of your feelings and expectations in relation to it make it hard to just tell yourself to feel a certain way about the sport. That’s okay. If there is one thing I’ve learned in my life thus far, mostly through experiences entirely unrelated to training, it’s that you cannot order emotions around. You cannot banish them, you cannot force them into being. They are the evidence of how you process outside stimuli–they are fact. You cannot change fact, but you can change conditions such that they result in different facts. I can work on my mind to process my mistakes without reading them as evidence that I’m deficient as a human being. Because I’m not.
So I’ll deadlift again next week, and my hips will figure out where they need to go. I will believe in myself. Because sometimes–a lot of times–I do.