The negative impact society has on me and the way I view being a muscular woman.
Here’s my big secret: I used to be a little overweight.
You see, in middle school, I was the shy girl in the movies who was only friends with a teacher. The girl who would eat lunch alone in the stairwell. Yeah, I really did that (once). My point is that I didn’t attempt to make friends for different reasons, but in part, it was because I was too shy (insecure).
My insecurities revolved around my body and being a size 14 because I didn’t look like the “Serena van der Woodsen’s” at my school.
I rarely worked out. It was a combination of asthma and mental health struggles, so I just sat around feeling sorry for myself. I was in this circular behavior of not being happy with my body but being too depressed to do anything about it. My weight wasn’t dangerous at all. I was just a little chunky, which, back then, was everything.
Thankfully, I started playing rugby, and I began to look better. Better by my standards. It was remarkable. I was finally able to experience something I never had before, confidence.
Today I’m a muscular size 8, and most of the time, I feel great in my clothes.
Even though I’d consider myself to be fit, I still experience fleeting moments of insecurity.
I tell myself I can’t help it, the occasional glances. The whispers. People will always talk.
It's not often, but it does happen.
Scenario: I’m cleaning at the gym, wearing SHU rugby lift clothes from two seasons ago, hair in a messy bun (if I’m that lucky), my face is dripping, and the corners of my mask are wet with sweat. No, I don’t look like the pretty girls that workout in Gym Shark. I look completely insane, hot mess minus the hot.
As I begin to increase my weights, I see men looking out of the corner of my eye. Not in admiration, but in, disbelief? Disgust? As if girls shouldn’t be cleaning enough to break a sweat. As if I can’t be feminine because I lift more than them. To be honest...part of me will always wonder if that’s true.
Then, there are the failed whispers. I overhear men disregarding muscular girls. “It’s not attractive,” they say. No wonder I question myself for being "too" muscular.
Pre-Covid, when bars were open, I picked my clothes out very deliberately. Instead of embracing my body, I simply modified my wardrobe.
I’d try to choose shirts with sleeves or really thick straps because I felt uncomfortable when my muscles looked prominent. Even when it was a compliment from a girl I knew, my face would instantly drop, and I would resort to hugging my biceps with my hands.
“I weigh 211 pounds. Men ignore me when I’m out. I don't know what it's like to get a free drink at the bar. I’m the friend type, not the girlfriend type. I started to learn how to dress for my size and I love my body. Who cares if the assholes at the bars don’t?” Hailey, 23
Seriously, what’s with the pressure of dressing for the bar? And no one was more obsessed with this than me. I cared sooo much about what strangers at the bar did or didn’t think about my appearance. Why?? It’s as if every sleazy bar remark was a stamp of approval. Approval that I never needed.
Honestly, the way society portrays strong women is the reason why I get so uncomfortable. I find myself comparing my body to these gorgeous, skinny models. They don’t have an ounce of muscle on their bodies, so it seems like I shouldn’t either.
I’ve been conditioned to feel insecure about being muscular. As women, we’re told that if we’re not the right combination of curvy and skinny, then we’re not attractive. Not to mention the fact that we’re not allowed to be hairy, have stretch marks, visible scars, or any other blemish, plus a million other things that are considered unattractive.
I’d like to go on record saying that that’s impossible.
Even if you’re lucky enough to be considered society-approved skinny; there are still insecurities tied to that.
“TBH I’m pretty skinny, I have a fat ass, and I know I have a nice body. Still, it’s not like I’ve never wondered if the man I’m with only likes me for my ass.” Jess, 21
It fucking sucks being a woman.
No matter how perfect or flawless someone may seem, women will always experience varying levels of insecurities. It's practically a rule.
My solution? Well, I've been doing more self-talk. So if I have any negative thoughts about my appearance, I repeat a phrase my mom says, it can always be worse. You have no idea who would kill to look like you. And while this may not be the healthiest POV to have, it’s true! It comes down to choosing self-love instead of self-comparison.
“For the longest time, I was embarrassed for being an A-Cup. Do I wish I had nice big double D’s that didn’t disappear when I laid down? Of course, I do. But this is the body God gave me, and it’s not about to change any time soon. Fuck it! I can wear whatever shirt I want, without a bra, and I don’t have back pain either." Girl, 19
Being attractive isn’t about looking like the celebrities you see online because it’s fake; every last one of them gets Botox. Instead, it’s about how you carry yourself. It’s confidence in your body, in yourself, that’s attractive.
Self-love is attractive.
I’ll repeat that:
From first-hand experience, I know it’s difficult to stop caring about what others think. However, as I love myself more and more, those irrelevant opinions slip further off my radar until they become just that, irrelevant.
So yes, I’m 155 pounds of muscle, and today I embrace that statement with pride instead of shame. Hold me to it- 2021 will be my year for tank tops.