Once upon a time, I knew a guy who, when I'd tell him about my workout routine, would say to me, "You should probably stick to light weights — you don't want to get too muscular." I eye-rolled that dude right out of my life, don't you worry. But, unfortunately, this is a really common thing for women to hear when it comes to body image and fitness. Thankfully, more and more celebrities, influencers, and athletes alike are using their platforms to empower women to pursue their goals, which is why Aly Raisman's comments about being "too strong" as a woman are so important and necessary to the body positivity movement.
In a recent interview with Huffington Post, Raisman admitted that she used to be made fun of for being "too strong" when she was growing up; specifically, she said she was teased for being more muscular than the boys she went to school with. "When I was younger, I would always get made fun of for being too strong," Raisman told Huffington Post. "The boys in my class would tell me that my muscles were disgusting."
The 24-year-old Olympic gymnast went on to reveal that, in fifth grade, during recess time, the boys would tell her she "looked like she was on steroids." Despite her obvious success in her athletic career, Raisman admitted that these comments have stuck with her for quite a long time. "Women and girls are always told you’re too something," she explained to Huffington Post. "I think we’ve all been told that at some point in our lives, and it’s something you can carry with you for a long time."
TBH, Raisman is right. Women are constantly being told they're "too much" (whatever that means), "too intense," "too emotional," "too aggressive" — you get the idea. It starts when you're young, and as Raisman's experiences illustrate, it can have a pretty significant effect on your self-esteem and body image in the long-term. "Sometimes I would beat some of the boys in class if we had a conditioning test or playing games at recess, and they were really mean to me about it," Raisman told Huffington Post. "It made me feel like I wasn’t girly enough. I never wanted to wear tank tops. I felt like everyone looked at me like those boys did."
These days, Raisman said she still struggles with insecurities like everyone else, but the difference is that now, she knows how to stop the negative thoughts and self-doubts once they start flooding her brain. "Sometimes I have to remind myself that it doesn’t matter and that what’s on the inside is a bajillion times more important," she told Huffington Post. "We’re all human. We all have those days where you wake up and feel good and then others when you feel a little more insecure and self-conscious."
On those days, Huffington Post reports, Raisman finds that anchoring herself in the present moment has a really positive impact on her mindset. Things like "writing in a journal, meditating or talking to someone," the gymnast told the outlet, help her stay grounded when her thoughts stray to worries about the past or future.
Raisman also explained that going to therapy and creating healthy boundaries with social media have been huge, important steps in cultivating a positive sense of self and brushing off the negative BS she sees online. "But it’s also about being kind to yourself and knowing you’re not perfect," she told Huffington Post. "It takes a lot of time, and I’m working a lot on taking care of myself. But some days, it feels like things are improving, and others, I feel like I’ve taken 10 steps backward. So it totally depends, and I think a lot of people can relate to that."
The road to self-love definitely isn't linear, but when women like Raisman insist on making their voices heard, on taking up as much space as possible, and on being unapologetically "too strong," it makes that road a little easier for all of us to navigate.