The other day I was in the grocery store I was shopping for steak. Girl’s hungry and loves herself a nice, medium rare steak. As I’m looking at the options available, a couple of middle aged men approach the steaks to take a peek for themselves.
Keep in mind I’m extremely excited at the possibility of steak — I’ve been traveling for 7 months now and it’s a real treat to have.
Then I notice one of the men glance at me and hear him say to the other man “Somebody give this girl a steak”.
I can immediately feel heat rising within me, noting my defensive nature creeping in. I felt angry and annoyed and thought, “You don’t know anything about me; how ignorant”. My silhouette is thin by society’s standards, yes, but what it is also is strong. I’m an active person — I lift weights, run and practice yoga — and you know what, this makes me more than thin; it makes me STRONG.
Not only do I exercise for physical health, but for mental and emotional health. And as someone who has struggled with mental health/anxiety for half her life, it felt an insult to my nature to hear this.
Without knowing it, the man insulted the very means by which I keep myself “happy”. I exercise because it keeps stress and anxiety under control. If I go more than one day without physical activity of some kind, I feel like my skin is crawling. Literally.
People cope with things differently. In a sense, exercise is my way of creating more strength. As in the more strong I feel physically, the stronger I feel mentally. And you know what? This works. Sure, that man could have just been making the comment to be funny, but to me it meant more. I took it personally because I work so hard just to stay on the right side of happy every. single. day.
As a therapist, I advise my clients to try not to take things personally. As a human, I sometimes do. This just makes me normal. Hearing this man make fun of me for being “in need of a steak” made me realize how connected I am to my own sense of struggle.
It’s like he was busting me for exposing how I cope with my own emotions and self – not to mentioned he was confusing needing to eat a steak with someone who is actually very physically healthy.
So, now that I’ve been exposed, I have a response not to him, but to myself.
Sometimes life is a struggle. It’s not always fair. Not everyone gets dealt the same set of cards. What you know about yourself is what’s most important. Each time you feel resistance to something, it’s an opportunity for learning.
Your defensive response to this man for his comment likely comes from a desire to protect yourself and those who feel like you, that your physical self does not depict who you are as a whole.
And so I ask you to remember that this man’s comments are likely a reflection of his own thoughts, and to remember that you know your own struggle and self best. Your physical strength is actually a manifestation of your mental strength, and of your commitment to do the best you can with what you’ve got.
I didn’t end up buying the steak. But I did end up with this reminder: how you feel about yourself matters so much more than any look, comment, or vibe you get from someone else.
At the end of the day, you are the one “stuck” with yourself. And while it would have been wonderful to eat steak that night, there will be a next time.