Today I had the opportunity to participate in an annual health and wellness fair at the company where my husband works. This was my second year and I really enjoyed it. As an extrovert, pretty much any time I get to interact with large amounts of people all at once, I’m in my happy place. Networking and schmoozing are among my favorite things to do, and when I get to share my passion for Pilates, it’s everything.
I began my Pilates journey over 11 years ago, not long after moving to Nashville. I was pretty hooked from the beginning, although I found it very challenging, even crazy-making, to focus on the tiny movements of small muscle groups. But over time I got the hang of it and the changes in my body made all the early frustration worthwhile. I also loved the discipline Pilates required. It reminds me of my early ballet training, and even though I was never cut out to be a ballet dancer, I loved the structure of the classes.
But structure is where Pilates and ballet diverge for me. When I was a little girl I was somewhat chubby. In retrospect, I was probably pretty normal. Most of my “baby fat,” had disappeared by the time of my Bat Mitzvah when I was 13. But in the late 1960s, early ‘70s, thin was definitely in, and thin was most definitely not what I was. I endured “advice,” from others, including my ballet teacher, the mom across the street, the pediatrician and others about how to eat, how to stand to hide my little belly and, of course, how to lose weight. I also endured teasing from boys in Hebrew school, other girls and neighborhood kids. I was picked last for teams in gym class, one of the slowest to finish the 50-yard dash and was never able to earn that coveted “Presidential Fitness Test,” patch to sew on my gym shorts. For the uninitiated and younger reader, this test began in the mid-1960s by President Johnson to motivate kids to get in shape. But for most of us, it was just humiliating. The idea was that each child had to pass a series of fitness challenges. The problem was that each challenge was done while your classmates watched from the sidelines, meaning everyone got to witness my failures. The outcome, as one could imagine, was trauma and shame. I am 60-years-old and I continue to feel insecure about my athletic abilities.
Fast forward 40 years to the early 2000s, and the beginning of my Pilates journey. After years of working out, gaining and losing pregnancy weight and just plain living life, I’d finally found something that not only helped me feel physically comfortable in my own body, but also something that gives me confidence. Through Pilates I learned to trust my teacher and myself to meet the challenges and to go further than I ever thought I could. I look forward to each lesson to see what new, hard or scary thing I get to do. And yes, I do get scared, a lot. But with encouragement and compassion my teacher helps me meet each new thing with a positive attitude. And the amazing thing about Pilates is that the stronger I get, the harder it becomes and the more I can challenge myself. Finally! I feel good about my physical ability and strength. I’ve also started strength training and interval running.
It’s funny, I’ve accomplished many things in my life, much of which makes me proud, most of it involves what I’ve done for others. Pilates is something I do for me, and I am proud of myself for overcoming my own self-doubt, fear and insecurity. I’m proud that I continue on this journey. I still haven’t completely overcome my childhood trauma, but I can tell that insecure, slightly overweight 11-year-old inside me that she’s going to be fine. She will grow up to be healthy, strong and capable of many things. And she is lovable.
What childhood trauma have you faced and how have you handled it?