I grew up in a hyper- masculine household. I mean, my father was a professional boxer... need I say more? Phrases like “don’t be a sissy” were so commonplace, I believed crying to be a sign of weakness and resting to signal laziness. God forbid you were also fat. We didn’t do fat in our house, either.
There wasn’t an obsession with perfection, but there was an obsession with doing one’s best in all things and at all times. And if it didn’t work out, try harder. And if you want to quit, don’t. And if it feels hard, tough shit. Life is hard. Wipe your tears, dust yourself off, and move on. If you‘re a fighter, I imagine you have to really live this kind of mentality. How else could you possibly agree to fight someone- maybe get beat up, maybe die, and decide to make a career out of it?
If you’re a little kid, I imagine this kind of mentality can create a fear of vulnerability. I know actually, because I live it. And here’s where I think parenting (particularly for kids of color) is really hard: on one hand, had I not been brought up the way I was, I can’t say I’d ever call myself an activist. (White folx, read that as “dealing with racism and discrimination is incredibly taxing on the physical and emotional life of Black people as evidenced by many factors including the evidence that a college educated Black person will still die younger than a high school educated White person.” If you’d like to fact check, google David R. Williams). I’m not sure I’d have the guts to start, or the mental toughness to keep going.
Through my Courage Campaign work with kids in schools, I’ve noticed that many kids today are afraid. They’re quiet. They don’t trust themselves. And perhaps most shockingly, they’re terrified of failing... at anything. And so they give up or don’t even try. On the other hand, here I am at almost 16 weeks pregnant applauding myself for taking time off from work and changing my schedule to accommodate my pregnancy. So basic self-care and compassion? (And please don’t think I’m unaware of the privilege to be able to make these adjustments). The amount of anxiety it gives me to say “I need help” can be crippling. I’d rather suffer and quietly rage than let anyone think I can’t handle my life, my emotions, my ambition. Even now, as I write this I‘m thinking, “Oh god I hope no one thinks I’m falling apart, BECAUSE I’M NOT!“ (For real, I’m not)
However, it’s the fear and slight embarrassment that signals how deep into my psyche my upbringing lies, and my responsibility as a parent to this little boy. What does it mean to not give up? To be “tough”? What is masculinity and manhood? What is personhood? Listen, my parents aren’t villains. They did the best they could with what they had and knew at the time. It’s my responsibility to use my upbringing to my advantage when needed, and let down the armor when it’s not. The growth is in the integration, not the rejection. I made the choice to pursue a career that relies heavily on moving my body. Over the years I’ve watched other pregnant women seemingly do just fine, and so my expectation was that I’d simply modify a few movements, not that I’d be bitch slapped every day by something the size of an avocado!
Even if you’re not a fitness instructor or professional athlete, and you exercise for health and longevity, it’s still a major adjustment. A calorie can only be used so many ways, and if you’re pregnant, calories are being used to GROW A HUMAN. And keep it alive. Of course we’re tired! Of course we have to adjust. Yes, we need help. And yes, we need a community of humans to support us, see us, hear us, and give us grace. There’s no shame in that! Sure, I’m a trainer, but I’m not here to tell you what you should or shouldn’t be doing or what movement or nutrition adjustments you should makes. Also, for fuck sake don’t listen to people on the internet for this. My only advice is that you make your body your BFF. When she talks to you, listen with an open heart and give her what she needs. Lastly, if you need help, ask for it. You’re still a superwoman. And maybe even more so because vulnerability IS a strength.
I hope my truth helps to set you free, too. xo