I recently conquered a fear that I didn't even know I had, related to a dream I didn't know I had. It took me months and months of practice, several failed attempts, and even a couple of resolutions: "I'm not doing this. It's not me. I don't even know why I signed up for this to begin with."
I'm a little sheepish to even admit this, but here's what I'm talking about: I taught my very first choreographed group fitness class.
That's right. I'm a fitness professional who lacks coordination. Who used to be picked last in gym class. Who never quite mastered the coordination to play a sport, ANY sport. Volleyball? I wasn't aggressive enough to spike hard and I never conquered the overhand serve. Basketball? Same thing. Tennis? Kinda fun, but I totally sucked at it. I sucked at every sport I tried, so I ended up not trying at all. I stuck with drama because I was great at it and I knew I wouldn't fail.
Fast forward a few (ahem) years, and I found myself in a similar spot. I love group fitness and jumped at the chance to teach a 30-minute class called CORE. But to do it, I had to learn choreography, group coaching, cuing movement with precise timing, etc. I put it off several times, and even committed NOT to do it, for reasons that nothing to do with ability and everything to do with this:
I had to do it perfectly. And if I couldn't do it perfectly, I didn't want to do it at all.
I recently watched a TED talk by a woman named Reshma Saujani called "Teach girls bravery, not perfection." In it, she attests that girls are, from an early age, encouraged to be perfect. If a little girl doesn't like an activity or feels that she's not good at it, her parents move her on to another activity that she's great at. Boys, on the other hand, are encouraged to get dirty, jump from the highest beam of the monkey bars, to take risks. Over time, this socialization leads to gender gaps in fields like IT, which is why Saujani formed a company called "Girls Who Code." The company's mission is to close the gender gap in computing by offering girls the chance to learn to code in a fun and supportive environment.
All this got me thinking about coaching women. I've coached women from 14-65, from many different walks of life. I've coached single women, moms, single moms, nurses, chefs, students, social workers, military women. One thing they share is a need to get it right. Is my form perfect? Can I eat this? Did I do that right?
And, this: if I can't do it right, do it perfectly, I won't do it at all. Sadly, I have clients who disappear from the gym after they gain 5 pounds or fall back into old habits.
Here's Saujani's message for parents, teachers, and society at large: let's teach our girls to be brave, not perfect. To take risks. To fail. To struggle, because struggle tells us that something is changing.
I'm so thankful for the risks I've taken. To get married and follow God into ministry, sometimes into countries and cultures that made me uncomfortable. To have kids, knowing that having a child is like having your heart walk around outside of your body. To move to a state that's very unlike where I grew up. To compete in figure, a division of bodybuilding. And, to pursue a career I never knew I would love.
As women, let's be brave and not perfect, especially when it comes to fitness. Run a 5K if you've never before, try a triathlon if you're like me and haven't mastered swimming. Join a gym. Ask for help. You'll never regret moving toward a healthier body, mind, and heart.