How did you get into powerlifting? This was a question asked on the registration form for the USAPL Raw Nationals. I typed an innocuous answer, something about a coach at my gym (JVB) asking if anyone wanted to try powerlifting and I decided sure, why not? I like lifting heavy things. But as I lay in bed after submitting that I realized it was only part of the answer, the easy part. What was missing was the answer to WHY did you get into powerlifting.
I alluded to my answer for WHY in my very first post but even that didn’t get to the heart of the answer. And maybe the answer is ever-evolving and what I am about to write is just the most current understanding I have of WHY.
I got into powerlifting because I believed that having a strong body would influence my state of mind. Strong body = strong mind = strong person. And at the moment in life when I began powerlifting I did not have a strong mind. Or rather, I didn’t have confidence in my strong mind. I was looking for something of a magic bullet to help me believe in myself again and lift me up from the outside in.
As we are learning more each day, being a woman is really hard. From birth (it seems) we are inundated with images of what girls are, should be, and should aspire to be. I never fit any of those molds – I am a smart, short, brunette with a “solid” frame. My eyes I affectionately (OK, derisively) call “shit brown” and I am sarcastic to a fault. And I have always been strong. And not just for a girl. I was the one people asked to lift heavy things and to literally pick them up when they were down.
What did this do for me, growing up in our society? It marginalized me and instead of learning to live my own life I was trying to live the life that I perceived society expected of me: girls should be delicate and tread lightly, not rock the boat. Girls should not be physically stronger than boys – that intimated boys and you would never get a boyfriend that way. Girls should not be intellectually smarter than boys – boys preferred their girls dumber so they could feel superior.
Did I actually believe those things? On some level I must have believed because they certainly influenced me. I broke up with my high school boyfriend because I thought I was too physically aggressive and not “delicate” enough – I outweighed him and it freaked me out. I didn’t try dating anyone else because I didn’t think anyone would be interested in me. I didn’t believe in myself.
Until I met my husband. And boy did he believe in me. Remember that first post where I mentioned rock climbing and kayaking and everything else that I love? Because he believed in me I was better able to believe in myself and try everything that I wanted – whether it was “normal” for a girl or not. These activities helped me gain strength and confidence. All was good but there was a nagging in the back of my mind, like I was missing something. And then in the midst of dark times in my life I found it: lifting heavy things.
Lifting heavy things was like getting back to my roots, getting back to me. I once again felt strong, like the one people could call when they needed help, when they needed someone to help them out of a jam – emotional or physical. In my search for me I found powerlifting and through powerlifting I was lucky enough to find a tribe of supportive women and men, people I can turn to when I am not strong. People who lift me up and believe in me. It’s kind of like Santa exists only as long as you believe in him – I can be strong mentally and physically only as long as I have a group of supportive people who help ME believe in me.
So, what is my REAL answer to the question: how did you get into powerlifting?
I got into powerlifting to strengthen my body and to use that physical strength to help strengthen my mind and my belief in myself. I got into powerlifting to learn who I am and who I will become.