Flashback to many moons ago – grade school. Like I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, I would have a hard time participating in sports mostly due to confidence and body issues. I couldn’t run fast, nor did I have a decent hand eye coordination. I used to be scared of catching a ball because I was convinced I was incapable of catching it. School life can be tough. It’s an age range where I didn’t understand I was going through something bigger and my friends didn’t understand that either. Most of them were good at least in one sport. We used to be a group of six girls – two played state level throwball, one was a good runner, one played basketball and one played football. Meanwhile, I used to tell myself, sports isn’t my thing. But I was never able to tell myself it was okay for sports to not be my thing. Probably because somewhere I think I liked playing, I liked the competition. I was so convinced at sucking at a sport that even if given a chance to play a sport, I’d blow it.
Fast forward many years later – I played badminton with my boyfriend. He’s very athletic – loves biking, tennis and golf. He’s forever up for a game of any kind. He tries his best to understand these feelings of mine and is always encouraging me to try. That’s when I decided to play badminton with him. To my surprise, I wasn’t half as bad as I’d been telling myself all these years. I could tell what areas I needed to work on but for the most part, it wasn’t one sided. He wasn’t getting easy points. It’s so refreshing to play a sport with your partner. There’s a this decent level of competition but for the most part, it doesn’t matter if you win or lose.
I probably went on at a tangent and if you read the title of this post, you must really be wondering what the point of this post is. Okay, so there are two:
- To explain to you how I’ve worked hard at drowning the body shaming voice in my head and celebrate my tiny victories every time I do so
- Is what I’m going to talk about below. (Trust me, I will tie it back together and it will make sense)
My manager gifted me this book by Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook) called Lean In. It’s a pretty famous book but don’t sweat if you don’t know about it. I also don’t know about many famous things in this world. In this book, Sheryl talks about her experiences of gender inequalities she’s faced at the workplace and during her career. A lot of it resonated with me even though I’m just about a year into my career. There was a particular chapter called ‘sit at the table’ where she describes a day in which she had a big meeting and during the lunch break, she saw these few women sit at a corner table. She brought them to sit at the main table because they were as much a part of this meeting as anybody else was. This story stuck with me. So today, at work, we had a fun team event. This event was held at a game room where there’s a pool table. Two of my male colleagues who are much senior to me started to play. Even four months ago, when I first joined this company, I couldn’t have imagined myself accepting an invitation to play let alone volunteering to play. Today, I decided to go say, “hey, I’m going play too” instead of “can I play?” or waiting to be asked to play (which wouldn’t happen and that’s fair. These things aren’t asked). I have played pool probably five to six times in my life. I’ve almost always sucked at it because I was convinced I couldn’t play. I told myself how it didn’t matter if I didn’t play well or didn’t win. I should be able to treat it as casually as anyone else in the room. That’s easy, you might think. You might even be right. But it is subjective. If that comes easily to you, I envy you. So, I play pool with the men at work today. I lost both the games. But – I hit two shots and I had a butt load of fun. It was a winning moment for me when I didn’t hesitate to join the game.
As promised, I am tying together the two points I made – only if you feel confident can you fight these feelings of inadequacy and have more experiences in life. If you never try, you will never know. And in this world of gender inequality, it’s harder to fight these feelings. It’s only harder, not impossible. I have a long way to go and by no means am I saying I’m free of these thoughts that bring me down. Fighting it is exhausting but it is twice as rewarding. You will discover immense power, talent and unbound joy or you would have at least dared to challenge your “Can I do this?” thought.
You never fail if you try. If I can, you definitely can. Always celebrate your little victories. You don’t need anyone’s permission to do so. Walk into a room full of people and choose to play. The ball is always in your court 🙂