Yesterday during my taxi ride from home to work, my taxi driver struck up a conversation with me. “Wow, are you a swimmer?” He asked, glancing at me through his mirror. “No,” I replied, “I’m a weightlifter.” He looked visibly shocked, “A weightlifter?? What a waste of a perfectly good body!” Well that’s new, I thought. “Aren’t you afraid of becoming super bulky? You’d better find a boyfriend that also weight lifts, or he won’t be able to tolerate you.” He proceeded. Ah, I’ve heard that one before, I grimace-smiled.
There was a time in my life when I would face these scenarios with silent anger, where I would just swallow my frustration and hold a grudge against whoever might have spewed these stereotypical statements in my face. But I soon realized that not only were these feelings were toxic towards my relationships (often times, these words were said by well-intentioned people who I respected and loved!), but that by just letting them happen, I was actively contributing to the perpetuation of these stereotypical assumptions.
So recently I’ve been making an effort to inject a little of my own words and thoughts into the conversation. “Actually,” I smiled back at the taxi driver, “it takes an immense amount of effort to put on muscle, especially for women, as we don’t have the same hormones as men. It is physically impossible to become “too big” unless you try really, really hard. And no, I’m not afraid of getting “too big.” I really enjoy feeling strong!”
And if you’re thinking, “HA! Do you think the taxi driver was really listening? Do you really think you can make a change?” - You’re right. The taxi driver just chuckled under his breath, sort of a slightly nicer way of saying, “yeah right.” But as pointless as it might have been with this one taxi driver, who knows? My words might one day hit home for some other taxi driver, or some other person who holds these stereotypical assumptions. I may be talking at a wall for 99 out of 100 people I meet, but hey! That one person that I manage to convince will hopefully consider his or her assumptions, and inject these thoughts into his or her conversations with others. Moreover, saying these words out loud has the added effect of acting as a positive affirmation for me - I have found that verbally affirming what I love to do is so, so empowering.
The main takeaway from this experience: Never underestimate the few words you share with strangers - they can make all the difference. It may seem like no one is listening or that no one cares about the message you are trying to get across (and sadly, a lot of times this is true!), but trust and hope that you will reach someone at some point.
Another positive push to finish off this bloggy post - just think: if negativity and stereotypes can spread, so can positivity and acceptance! :)
Hello world! I'm Steph, and I am an aspiring clinical psychologist, avid advocate for eating disorder awareness, and bubbly human being :)