I’ve spent enough hours in a gym, done enough workouts that hurtle you into struggle, to hear “don’t be a pussy” thrown in there right as things start to get interesting. Look, I get it. The utterer of said statement didn’t mean “don’t be a vagina.” They didn’t even mean, “don’t be a girl, because girls are weak,” at least not directly. That is not what this post is even about. What they meant, what this post is about, is “don’t you dare admit that this is hard.” And right now that, that denial of struggle, that fear of admitting to any sort of weakness, is what I’m curious about eradicating (and thus hopefully using pussy to encapsulate that struggle along with it…)
Why are we so scared for things to be hard?
Anyone who has stepped into a CrossFit box knows that it isn’t just about looking good naked. Yes, that is a lovely side effect, but there’s something inherently different in the air after a WOD. You can see it in people faces. You can feel it in the way that they carry themselves (or are momentarily unable to do so.) These athletes have been altered in some way. They have been made bigger. They have been made stronger. They have been made more resilient. And they also been exposed to a part of themselves that is only brought to light under load.
Can you handle this?
Isn’t that to some degree why we train, why we do sport? We opt into these moments of struggle via a barbell or some other curious mode of torture that demand inquiry into the self. Every time struggle rises to the top of our consciousness in a workout it asks us a question and demands that we make a choice.
It is fear that shuts this question down with: don’t be a pussy. It gives us no other choice but to ignore it. To pretend that the work isn’t hard. To be afraid of it if it is. To think that we’re not good enough if we say so out loud. But what if we became curious instead or numb? What if we engaged with that question instead of shut it down? Or what if instead of turning to degradation, to pitting ourselves against a smaller version of ourselves, we simply said:
Oh, this is hard? Good.
CrossFit, sport, they are supposed to be hard. Not hard for hards sake. Not hard at the expense of integrity or form. But hard in the way that leads you sometimes gently, sometimes not, to the edge of what you thought possible. And we miss that, that acknowledgment of our own limitation and then our intentional step past it, when we are determined not to feel anything. When we are scared to admit that we have limits. When we are scared to admit that we were scared in the first place.
There is a freedom in admitting that you are scared.
Just like there is freedom in admitting that something is hard. Right in the mess of it. Right when we’ve been told we shouldn’t.
There is a different kind of power – one threaded with poise and resiliency – when we take ownership of struggle. When we say, “yes,” and step up to it, instead of brush it aside as weakness. And when we stop spending all our energy pretending it’s not hard, we get to use that energy to make something interesting.
We don’t do CrossFit to stay the same. And we don’t do CrossFit because it’s easy. We do it because it is hard. We do it because it changes us. So freaking let it. Let it be hard and messy and engage with that. Be curious about that. Embrace that.
All the good stuff happens on the other side of fear. And we get there not by being fearless. We get there by doing the work anyways. We get there by doing the work right alongside that fear.
It isn’t fear that undermines the work that we do. It’s believing that we shouldn’t be afraid in the first place.
So be afraid.
And then do all that work anyways.