“Oh look. Superwoman is back.”
I could barely make out the sound over the workout music blasting in my headphones but as I turned to find the source of the muffled words, I realized they had been directed at me.
I locked eyes with the elderly woman beside me and reached up to click the headphone sound off so I could clarify what she had said.
I could feel the defensiveness starting to rise in my chest.
She motioned to the weight stack on the leg machine I was using and said “you’re like a superwoman. How can you do weights that heavy?”
She sat down at the machine beside me, adjusted the weights, and pointed at her own weight stack sighing “I can barely do this little bit and you did all that the other day.”
Suddenly everything shifted into focus.
I realized that I had misread this woman a few days earlier when she had been waiting for one of the machines I was using. Her exasperated sighs that day hadn’t been about me taking too long or being too sweaty or using a machine she wanted. They were because she felt badly about her limitations.
She had been in her own head, beating herself up with negative self talk.
She had no way of knowing that just a few minutes earlier I was feeling exasperated with my own limitations too and was convinced that she was repulsed and irritated by me.
With my newfound insight, I leaned over to her and whispered, “You’re a superwoman too, you know. Just being here is hard.”
She softened, smiled, and did a set on her machine before taking a deep breath.
“You know,” she said, “I’m actually recovering from a stroke and a triple bypass. I’m trying to get back to being healthy.”
Talk about a superwoman, right?
We spent the next few minutes chatting in-between sets as each of us completed our own superwomanly workout and shared some of the struggles of our lives - her looking back wistfully at my current stage of life and me looking forward in awe at hers.
As we parted ways, I couldn’t help but be moved by the irony of our shared experiences with self doubt and negative self talk.
Both of us had dragged ourselves to the gym on a Monday morning, feeling badly about ourselves and envious of the other women around us.
Women we thought were stronger,
and overall, better.
We had looked around us and saw a bunch of superwomen and in the mirror only saw a fraud.
But, for those few moments today both of us seemed to realize that maybe we did have a little bit of a superwoman in us.
Because there is a superwoman in all of us - fighting our own demons, pushing through our own challenges, and fighting towards our own goals.
Maybe it’s time to stop beating ourselves up and start lifting ourselves up instead.
And maybe as we start to lift ourselves up, we could also lift up our gaze and make connections with the other superwomen around us.
Because they are everywhere.
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