Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Inner Fat Girl Syndrome

We were informed about a month ago that our first official Junior League event would be a day-long retreat at BRIDGES for all the new members.  Mentioned in the email were terms like "team-building activities" and "high and low ropes course."  And I didn't need to hear anymore.  I was overcome with anxiety because the only memories I have of doing anything like that are clouded with emotion from my inner fat girl.

My inner fat girl comes from the middle school/high school decade of my life (ie, the last time I did any kind of team building/ropes course activites).  She's out of shape, overweight, and not particularly comfortable with harnesses or the thought of her peers lifting or carrying her.  Even though I'm not necessarily "the fat girl" anymore, the emotions from my childhood stay with me in certain circumstances (thankfully they're repressed most of the time).

And it's weird.  It's weird that my confidence - confidence in myself, and even in my strength - can be instantly derailed with the mention of something like a ropes course - that those words can bring back such strong associations from childhood.  And it's weird, still, that upon arriving at BRIDGES, one of the ways I was calmed with what was ahead was by acknowledging that there were some fat girls in our group.  It's horrible!  I know!  I hate that I was forced into this strange, judgemental state of mind.  But just to be completely honest (since, you know, it's my blog and I shouldn't really have to censor), I was.  And that's how the inner fat girl works - she thinks in drastic extremes: fat/skinny, able/unable, out of shape/fit.

So we got there.  I was nervous.  Especially once I actually saw the high course, because, as appropriately deemed, it's friggin high.  We spent the morning, though, doing some standard team-building games.  The classic "we have 4 long wooden beams and have to balance them on the wooden blocks in the middle of the 'river' to get everyone across."  Which was fine.  (And actually, sort of a funny aside: when you're an adult group doing that activity, 1) it's not as tough to figure out as when you're a kid, and 2) you're on more of a time schedule than if you're say, at camp - so likely, if you drop one beam "in the river," they'll probably let you have it back pretty soon or else it will take up too much time.  Oh adulthood, how you've jaded me.)

Anyway.  We also did the standard "spider's web" game where there's a web constructed in the center of the room and you have to pass each person through it (not using the same hole twice) to get everyone to the other side.  When I saw the web, I had a brief inner panic "OMG they're going to have to lift me what if I'm too heavy what if I don't fit through any of the holes!?" but it was calmed again, embarassingly, by sizing up some of the other women and determining that I was not the heaviest in the room.  And it was fine, of course. 

But then after lunch, it was go time.  My group would do the high ropes course first and the rock-climbing wall second.  I should clarify now that the weight-related anxieties of the inner fat girl were calmed, and instead replaced with the other element of inner fat-girl syndrome, the I'm-not-strong-enough-or-in-good-enough-shape.  This was not a height issue for me.  I mean, yes, heights are scary, but they don't cause me anxiety.  This was strictly an inner voice telling me that I was unable to do it because I wasn't physically strong enough.  (And if you're wondering - the answer is yes - you can sit out for any activity you want.  Their theme is "challenge by choice."  And actually, quite a few girls sat out the high ropes course.  Or they rode the lift up, and then came right back down [presumably because of height issues].)

So it was my turn.  I was last in our group (which caused inner-alarm: "everyone is going to watch you").  I rode the lift up (~40 feet in the air) and was on this tiny platform with a BRIDGES employee.  I freaked out.  I was hugging the metal pole that ran through the center of the platform.  "I want to go back down."  This guy, though, clearly well-trained at his job, I think could tell that it wasn't a height issue for me.  So he talked me up.  I don't remember exactly what he said, but it was something along the lines of "you're only limited by your mind, your body is capable of doing anything your mind will let it do.  And you can't let your mind convince you that you aren't good enough." 

It was what I needed to hear - it was really what I needed to hear, not just at that moment, but for my life in general.  So I did it.  I walked across the two shakey metal poles to the next platform.  Then I stepped off the edge of that platform (into the air!) to be quickly propelled forward on a zipline to the next platform.  Then I climbed across the final element, a rope cargo net, and was safely lowered to the ground.

My group immediately went over to the climbing wall (like the kind you see in sporting goods stores - the rock-loooking wall with lots of fake rocks of different colors and sizes).  I wasn't as nervous, but still slightly concerned ("what if I don't have enough arm strength to even get up a couple feet?").  But, as I'm sure you can predict because of the positive turn of this post, I did great.  I was strong and fast, and was able to use my height to my advantage, really reaching for far rocks.

I know this is going to sound totally lame, but I'm soooo proud of myself!  I felt like, through completing those things, I've sort of proved myself....to myself.  That is, I maybe don't need to carry around the ghost of my inner fat girl as much as I do.  That healthy eating and exercise have actually changed my body.  I'm able to do things now that I physically couldn't do before because I wasn't as healthy.  And I feel awesome.  I'm so so proud that I didn't come back down from the first platform - I was literally about to be lowered. 

I hadn't been looking forward to a whole Saturday of Junior League or particularly, a day of campy activities (because really, my Sunday was going to be super stressful trying to do all the weekend chores in one day).  But it was so great. Totally worth the cleaning & laundry of Sunday.  And who knows - it might have made a climber out of me, because I really want to go to BRIDGES on "open climb" night for the community.  My my how things have changed in this decade...


Jonathan said...

The confidence comes from all those Dreya rolls and sword/hammers.

LB said...


In other news, props to you for pushing through the course! I'm super excited to see what kind of stuff you end up doing in the JL, how big the time commitment is, and if fulfills the stereotype of luring in a bunch of snobby housewives or if there are some cool kids to hang out with.

b|rad said...

I've been to BRIDGES and I love the layout of that place! Props on doing the ropes course! I haven't done one myself since starting at UGA but I have an arsenal of teambuilders in my back pocket I use with my students every.single.day.

In other news, one of my Memphis faves, Melissa Potosky is in JL. Have you met her? LOVE. HER.

Claire said...

Congrats, Jackie! I know I have terrible memories of trying and failing - in front of all of my classmates! - to do chin/pull-ups in elementary school gym class. Experiences like that leave a mark. I can mostly laugh at it now, but I do hope gym teachers nowadays think twice before subjecting kids to that level of humiliation.