TOO MUCH VERSUS NOT ENOUGH
By: Lauren Anderson
About a month or so ago I was at the gym, and we were working on back squats.
I don’t know if it was the day or what, but it was one of those workouts where I was just happy I made it there at all. I found myself really taking it kinda easy. It felt good to be there and I was glad I went, but to be honest, I was feeling a little distracted. I just couldn’t get myself fully into the room. And for what little amount of time I managed to get present that day, it was really hard to stay there.
I’m not proud of this, but I’m not above admitting it either. I was just kind of going through the motions and taking it easy. I don’t know… I just couldn’t get myself to rally.
When I find myself in moods like this, instead of beating myself up– which never does me any good— I’ve started to try to reframe. “At least you made it to class today at all!” I’ll say. Or “Some movement is better than none” I’ll reason. Or even, “Good job listening to your body! Today it needs gentleness. It’s okay to give it what it needs.”
I find this kind of self talk keeps me going, and more importantly, it keeps me coming back. Knowing that I can workout, and use my body when it’s in any number of moods, is an important lesson for a person like me. Someone who in the past would try and find any excuse not to workout. Or even someone who convinced themselves that “Go hard or Go Home” was the only acceptable way to be at the gym at all.
But like, even The Rock has to have an off day once in awhile right?
So I’m in the gym, taking it easy… and we’re trying to get to a 70 percent max on our back squat. I put on weights that I know fall well below my potential, but on that day, it seemed about right. After my third rep through, I decide to add 5 lbs to each side.
I just stand and stare at the bar.
All I could think was, “That’s too much.” And then all the things that go along with “too much”. All the “I can’ts” and “I shouldn’ts” and “Jeez Anderson– what are you thinking?” Or even, “Maybe it’s best if you just pull back.”
Then it dawned on me… I’ve been pulling back my whole life.
I’ve shared in this blog before the fact that I was a pretty hyper kid. My mom gave me the analogy that my energy was like a faucet. And that even if everyone wants the water, they all don’t want or need full faucet all the time.
This taught me to self-regulate and anticipate other people’s needs. So I could still show up as myself, but I would also be a more palatable child and friend.
At the time, I was grateful for this image to work with. But now I think I might start to see it for more of what it is. It was me holding in and pulling back to be more socially “acceptable” to others. My need to be “full faucet” was always secondary to what others needed of me. Hmmmm…. And even though I think some of this skill is absolutely necessary to be a functioning member of society, the adult looking back feels kinda bad for kid me. I mean, I spent a lot of my youth “reining it in”.
I wonder how different I’d be if I never learned to do that?
Because even with this skill, other people I care about, in various ways, throughout my life have still said that I am “too much.”
I distinctly remember a boyfriend in college telling me I was “too much” one time. I don’t think he realized what a nerve he had struck. Because looking back, I never even went “full faucet” with him.
He tried to backtrack with compliments after he saw me get offended. He said, “No, no! It’s a good thing. You’re like, the coolest person I’ve ever met. It’s just, sometimes I don’t know what’s left for me to bring to the table.” He went on to say in so many words that I was “intimidating” and “was a better person” than he was.
It didn’t help to hear. It was bullshit really. Because I knew it was just more ways of telling me, “I am too much.” We broke up shortly after that, to no one’s surprise but my own. I remember crying on the phone with my dad. Lamenting about what that boyfriend had said. You know, just really feeling sorry for myself.
And my father, in his infinite wisdom said, “No no. You’re not too much. You’re not too much.”
(Pause for effect….)
“That guy just wasn’t enough.”
I remember it dramatically, because it stopped my tears mid-sob. My dad gives great advice, but he will be the first to tell you that when it comes to matters of the heart, he’s not the best. But this really helped to hear. I still think about it actually.
No one had ever said that to me before. It was always, always me being more than what people wanted or needed. This was one of the first times I heard someone I love tell me, that it was someone else that needed to adjust their faucet FOR ME.
I wiped the tears from my cheeks. I said, “But that means I’m intimidating…”
Dad continued. “Of course you are! And that’s a good thing.”
“But I don’t want to be.” I croaked. Incredulous.
And Dad said, “Yes you do, kiddo. Because that means the men that are worthy of you will rise to the occasion. And the others that can’t roll with you, will get weeded out.”
I swallowed hard. What an idea… You mean, I don’t just have to be all the things for other people? People also have to show up for me? My tears devolved into silence. Dad keeps talking.
“I mean, look at your step mom!” He said. “She’s scary as hell sometimes.”
We both laughed, because it’s the truth.
My step mom is tall and striking like a model, a fierce intellect, who always speaks her mind, and is probably the most well-read person I know. And they met each other on base in the Air Force. She can shoot a gun, ride a motorcycle, and bake a souffle while discussing the symbolism of Canterbury Tales. I have seen people actually physically cower around her. And I love every second of it.
My dad continues. “She can be scary to other people. But not to me. I’m not afraid of her, because to me, she’s just right.”
To me, she’s just right. Probably the most romantic thing I’ve ever heard my dad say about his wife.
* * *
So I’m back in the gym, staring down this bar. My mind roiling with thoughts. Trying to decide if that extra set of 5 pounds is too much. When Coach Morgen walks by.
“What’s going on here?” They ask me. I tell Coach I’m trying to decide if the weight is too much. Morgen just looks at me and says, “Show me.”
With Coach standing by, I lift the bar and go into my back squat. I go down and back up with surprising ease. And then I re-rack. “I dunno” I say, “Something just feels off.”
Coach just looks at me, and says, “That’s because you’re not lifting enough weight. That’s why your form feels off. That’s why you feel wobbly.”
I stare at them blankly.
They continue. “It’s not too much weight. It’s actually not enough.”
I stop in my tracks. Just like with my dad those years ago.
* * *
My whole life I’ve been worried about being too much. But maybe, just maybe, I’m actually afraid that I’m not enough? And what if those fears are actually the same thing?
It reminds me of the quote by the Instagram poet (that I want everyone to follow), Nayirah Waheed.
It goes, “What about this theory. The fear of not being enough. And the fear of being ‘too much’. Are exactly the same fear. The fear of being you.”
That’s some big stuff to contemplate. And you can bet, I’ll be unpacking this idea for many weeks to come. But one thing has become inevitable. My workouts at the gym keep shining a light on so much more than just my relationship to my body. Every workout continues to teach me more than I ever imagined it could.
It’s not therapy, but holy shit is it therapeutic.
Weightlifting always seems to offer this real-life practicum. Like putting thoughts into practice. The bridges of what we are thinking about ourselves and others, and even the patterns of how we live, show up and have a tendency to come out in the gym.
Much like the idea of being ‘too much’ and ‘not enough’ are closer than I thought to being the same fear, what a great reminder that our thoughts and our bodies live together. For a person like me who has a tendency to want to separate the two, this is a powerful hallmark that I don’t want to forget.
My body and thoughts affect each other. And they overlap and feed off each other. It is two parts that make up the whole, and that wholeness is something I think I’ve been missing. At least until very recently. I bring my body and thoughts into the gym every time I go.
And when I leave, I find the two woven together stronger than before.
It’s not too much, or not enough. To quote my dad, “To me, she’s just right.”