body, movement, & dance

Week Six: Strength and Weakness

Sunday: took a walk to enjoy the outdoors
Monday: attended a Pilates class
Tuesday: chose to write in my journal instead of a trip to the gym
Wednesday: purchased new exercise sneakers
Thursday: wore comfortable, casual clothes to work
Friday: cared for my foot injury
Saturday: received a lower back massage from a friend

I want to get stronger. I want to build strength in my core muscles because I believe it will lessen my back pain and because I believe it is important to be strong. I’ve read several feminist books that encourage women to build up their physical strength as an expression of personal power and ability. Valuing our capacity for strength is a feminist move.

Valuing our capacity for weakness is a feminist move as well. Although excited by my return to yoga and Pilates classes, I had quite a busy week last week in which my eagerness to attend extra classes dissipated in my concern over getting things done and the raw fact that I felt I needed to put off exercise until the weekend.

Then, I woke up Friday morning as my right foot pounded in pain. I could barely walk, let alone exercise, and I had to cope with my body’s propensity for pain and inflammation as I figured out how to be body positive in this unexpected period of weakness.

Pause for a story about a person I dated briefly my sophomore year of college. This person said that he liked me for my strength: my independence, my confidence, my ability to take care of myself.

But I didn’t feel so strong all the time. I especially didn’t feel strong that spring as Take Back the Night approached, an event on my college campus which includes a speak out by survivors of sexual violence. I had been to the event the year before, and I anticipated a flood of so-called weak feelings including fear and vulnerability. I tried to picture what it would mean to let this guy who liked me for my strength see me in such weakness.

In looking at this tension between strength and weakness, I learned to see strength more as a skill set than as a state of being. The feelings of fear and vulnerability didn’t disprove my confidence and ability to care for myself. In fact, my ability to express those negative emotions and participate actively in a caring community came from that very place of strength that my dating partner so admired.

To bring it back to the topic at hand: physical strength would be great, but taking on the challenge of building physical strength will be most holistically effective and healthy if I simultaneously prioritize that other kind of strength, strength that comes from a body positive attitude, strength that comes from confidence and self-awareness, strength that comes from a balanced perspective.

I’m not there yet. I still have my weakness, and I’m trying to face that weakness in talking about it and writing about it. Holding that weakness, carrying it, accepting it is the process of training my emotional muscles. I want to get stronger.

Published by Mimi Arbeit

applied developmental scientist, antifascist community organizer, sexuality educator

2 thoughts on “Week Six: Strength and Weakness”

  1. suz says:

    having a dog can be a great way to develop a body positive attitude 🙂 they love their bodies and all the walking/eating/playing/receiving petting that they do. as you enjoy these activities with your dog, you too can appreciate your own capacity to enjoy movement and touch while taking care of your dog's needs!

  2. Mimi says:

    That's awesome! Perhaps "playing with my friend's dog" will show up as one of my body-positive actions one of these days.

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