It’s National Women’s Health Week — a time to embrace that we all belong
In honor of National Women’s Health Week what better time to have open conversations about things that affect our health but that we may not always be comfortable talking about. Let’s start with this one — our ever-present need to judge ourselves.
For many of us it started in our teen years — maybe earlier or maybe later for others — but chances are, it is still there. Not always, but enough. We all have argued with ourselves about what we eat or maddened ourselves about the amount or type of exercise we get. We have looked in the mirror and judged our bodies against the bodies of others.
But let me tell you something you may not know, something you may not always feel: You are not alone in this.
We all have felt the sting of confusion between accepting our bodies for what they are versus comparing ourselves to what society tells us they should be and then trying to fit that mold. And the lines easily become blurred. We hear “Strong is beautiful,” but the media isn’t backing that up in the way they portray women. More often they report on what we look like than our skills.
Studies show that in the media’s coverage of sports, men are three times more likely to be mentioned in a sporting context than women — who, meanwhile, are routinely described in terms not related to their abilities, such as age, marital status and appearance. Then there is the constant need for media to label our bodies as curvy, plus size, unconventional, and on and on.
Even when we do our best to go about our lives and just try to be our own happy and healthy selves, we can’t seem to get away from the fact that we still have to fit into one of these boxes society has created for us.
And we wonder if anyone else feels the pressure we do. Does anyone else feel guilty when they splurge and enjoy food? Do they question how much they’re exercising? Or compare themselves to the women they see in magazines or on social media? We are told to be body positive and accept ourselves, but we’re bombarded by products that are supposed to make us better than we already are. That which “makes us more” leaves us feeling like less. How can we not be confused?
The truth is being a woman is different than being a man. From the types of injuries we are more likely to sustain, to body image pressures, to the way we should fuel our bodies. Yet we have very few places where we can discuss these issues freely and know those surrounding us have faced similar obstacles and won’t judge.
This is why community is so important. This is a big reason why we created Norton Women’s Sports Health — to help tackle the conversations we are having with ourselves but are afraid to have with others. The truth is that sometimes in a group of just women, we can speak to the different pressures we feel, the difficult standards that are placed on us, and we can feel safe. And in that moment, we can feel what we should all the time — that we are not alone and that we belong.
When we work to take care of our mental health it results in better physical health. So here is some advice: Seek out places and people who surround you with not just empathy for your struggles but, more important, who relish in your rise from those struggles. A place that does not meet you with judgment but rather unity, a community that’s with you no matter where you are on the journey of self-acceptance.