I was five years into my fitness journey when I first noticed the below-listed negative behaviors and comments from other women. And I was taken aback by the potency of what felt like anger, hatred, or frustration emanating from their eyes and mouths. My first experience of this came from a teacher whom I respected, viewed as an intellectual, and thought was mentally far above the petty insecurities that evoke the above-described hallmarks of a woman incensed by another woman’s success. I was a new, young mom, and she was middle-aged and a mother herself. The year prior, we had many enriching conversations, and she was my favorite teacher. But, after vowing to improve my life and health and ultimately getting into shape, she started making backhanded comments about my appearance. While not succeeding in making me feel bad about my body, she succeeded in showing me the kind of woman I wouldn’t like to become: bitter, insecure, and doing nothing about it.
Prior to adopting a healthy lifestyle, I had severe depression, and like many, I was lazy and out of shape. Pregnancy woke me up, and I realized I had to be healthier and more mindful about my lifestyle. Knowing my history of depression and having finally overcome it, my teacher ignored or overlooked the positive changes I made as a new, young mom, and instead gave in to her insecurities and insulted my achievements and appearance any chance she got. Needless to say, I ended our once enjoyable conversations. But insults about my new healthy lifestyle didn’t end with her. Over time, I was increasingly on the receiving end of women ejecting unwarranted insults on me about my body. Sadly, I eventually found myself scrutinizing my figure (which is what they wanted). But that self-scrutiny did not last. Education and principles saved me then and still save me now from focusing on the superficial aspects of reaching fitness goals. Regular exercise and education on nutrition diminished my depression. So while women focused on my looks, I focused on the health of my brain, and I wasn’t about to go back to the depressed girl I once was by reversing my lifestyle changes. This is why my primary goal has always been lifelong health and fitness. To meet that goal, all obstacles must be overcome, including those who might try to psych me out along the way.
As years passed and my love of wellness became interwoven into who I am, I stopped caring about reactions from my many female critics (because they haven’t gone away). My teacher’s sudden personality change toward me was surprising and, frankly, disappointing, but now I know it’s far too common, if not expected, among women in the unrelenting battle of body comparisons waged against each other.
As derisive behaviors and comments kept coming my way from random women, co-workers, and even family members, I noticed a predictable pattern. If you’re a fit woman reading this, you can expect to experience the same below-listed negative patterns of behavior from other women — women who feel personally affronted and challenged by your success. They hope, consciously or subconsciously, to tear you down and make you like them: those who give up, give in, and/or don’t take action in an area everyone wishes to master but few do: mind, body, fitness, and health. I call the disparaging comments from these women “regurgitations” because they simply can’t control the rude, involuntary eruptions that sprout from their mouths when they see you, and it’s learned behavior, repeated across generations of women.
This is when a woman’s roving eye scans your entire body seeking fault: some blemish or imperfection that will knock your appearance down a peg (in her eyes). She’ll pick a specific area or areas of your body and not hesitate to tell you how unattractive she thinks it is—as if you asked her opinion. This is just an effort to make you feel insecure because she’s insecure around you. These women seem to think all fit women are arrogant, vain, and need to be knocked off their pedestals. They’re wrong. We know we’re not perfect. We just work to be better than average.
Yeah, I know it’s weird: women model for each other. Strange, but plain-old fact. Women who have a particular obsession with the superficial and fancy themselves as hot, sexy — choose your label — often feel the urge to declare their place as beauty queens of every space they’re in. They do this by always being curiously in your line of sight, sauntering around, often when there’s plenty of room for them to walk behind you, away from you, or anywhere else. These “models” are usually what I call “mantelpieces”: pretty faces, but often with an average body or the old-world ideal: a girlish, prepubescent-skinny, shapeless build. A recent superhero miscasting comes to mind – I agree with Cameron. The pretty faces of these women may get the adoration of many, and as a result, they believe every inch of their body is perfect. Really, oftentimes, these women do not have above-average bodies. Maybe due to the praise they’ve received over their lifetimes because of their faces, they fail to see the need to improve the other 90% of themselves from the neck down.
When one of these women see another who has worked for her physique, they feel threatened, often because she lacks the discipline to do the same on her own. Their modeling is a feeble silent challenge. Being so accustomed to being the most beautiful creature in every room, she does all she knows how to do in an attempt to remain queen of her immediate space by modelling: getting in your way, hoping you’ll see just how magnificently beautiful she is — at least in her mind. A perk of being a woman with a hard-earned physique and the self-discipline that requires, is we’re not easily made jealous. We know how much work it takes to get where we are, how little effort it takes to be standard or skinny like the type of woman described above, and we know which we prefer.
Speaking of the “mantelpieces,” a pretty face is a small percentage of one’s whole self. Women like the above, the models, often fail to consider the whole picture, not just aesthetically, but in various areas of life: it’s not all about aesthetics. It takes a certain personality, discipline, planning, and knowledge to reach high health and fitness goals. A woman who is secure and mature enough in herself to not so desperately seek attention for her physical appearance is one who should be modeled after.
Attempted Physical Competition
Usually a fitness newbie with an inflated sense of their physical abilities falls into this type of behavior. Sadly for them, it’s always an epic failure when chanced against an experienced athlete. This typically takes place at a gym. Here’s the scene: a woman who’s been exercising for a month or so believes she is suddenly strong and tough. She likely walks around with graphic tees that say something about working out, like, “I ♡ dumbbells” or “Little Tough Guy.” You know that type. She believes she’s super-fit because she’s managed to work out consistently for more than one month. But, more than likely, in order to make any real progress, her boyfriend has to babysit her at the weight rack and hold her hand through easy exercises, like bicep curls. Or, because of her lack of self-motivation and self-discipline, she requires the motivation and reassurance of group exercise.
With her newly inflated ego, she thinks she can go head-to-head with an experienced female athlete. She’ll attempt to mimic the same exercises at the same intensity as the athlete. But this goes awry from the onset, when she discovers, after embarrassing failure, that she either can’t do even one rep of the exercise, can’t achieve proper form, or lacks the adequate conditioning to perform at the level of the seasoned athlete. This insecure creature clearly doesn’t know (or appreciate) that it takes time and dedication to achieve a certain level of fitness and master a given physical skill. A more experienced person wouldn’t follow someone else’s routine on a whim. They know the logic and science behind individualized training, which is based on fitness level, experience, and goals. Keep trying, newbie.
The Lost Puppy
This is the woman who follows you around the gym with puppy-dog eyes, lost and clueless as of what to do—so she’ll follow you since you’re ostensibly fit. While this is not offensive or rude like the previous non-verbal actions I’ve described, it’s annoying as hell. Her wide eyes and constant dawdling around you is her way of saying, “help me, help me. I want to be like you.” These women are irritating simply because they’re lost in the first place. I mean, take a moment to read a book or something before paying for a gym membership. This person not only wastes money, but wastes their own time — while trying to waste another woman’s time to boot. The key to success isn’t following random people around and hoping they’ll stop what they’re doing to rescue an ignorant gym-goer. These women have every opportunity to get informed as anyone else does. I have helped one or two of these women in the past. But, their strategies to reach fitness goals: joining a gym with no game plan and following around random people they want to look like, should have told me that they weren’t dedicated to sticking to anything I showed them. Additionally, these irritating interlopers often eventually have wishy-washy fits of negative regurgitations like the rest. It’s best to leave them roaming aimlessly than allow them to waste your time. Let some guy rescue them in their ignorance, as that’s so often the end result.
Reveling in a Fantasy that Fit Women are Airheads
Our bodies are the only real possession we have in life; therefore, it’s a no-brainer to take care of it. However, when you manage to be of that class of people who actually achieve good health and fitness and keep it up, you often become a source of hatred, particularly if you’re a woman among other women. One of the things these women do in rebellion is act as if you’re stupid. Come on, we all know people love believing fit people are idiots. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a woman so eager to see this belief fulfilled that she refused to fully listen to things I said. Instead, she cut me off, either assuming she knew what I was going to say and it was inept, or that my statement needed to be completed by her for it to be correct. These women also tend to state the obvious when speaking to you or they overexplain things, hoping to present themselves as the “smart one.” In reality, stating the obvious simply means you have nothing to add.
Unlike those who see the achievement of health and fitness as an impossibility or a time-consuming burden, women who manage to maintain good health for years know how to keep a balance. It’s all about education. Yes, education. Being that we’re all organic with body systems that require regular maintenance, anyone with a modicum of intelligence should prioritize health and fitness. If you ask me, those who don’t are themselves stupid. People who maintain balance in health, fitness, and life inform themselves about how to reach and maintain their goals; unlike those who give in to the primal urge to compete with others. These unnecessarily abrasive women are not so combative when another woman’s hobby is, say, scrapbooking or drinking wine and gossiping about reality TV.
Minimizing – Downplaying Your Hard Work & Dedication
Here’s a typical sentence, “I know [insert name of random person] who has more muscle, is leaner, etc than you.” Or, extra rude, “I like [insert name of random person] abs/body/etc better than yours.” This is as pointless as saying, “Hey, beautiful people exist; therefore, less-fortunate-looking people should lie down, accept their defeat, and never do anything to improve themselves.” That’s just idiot logic. The kind of woman who makes such statements is simply attempting to undercut or minimize the physical achievements of another. Further, it’s obvious that this woman has never had a solid relationship with health and fitness because she sees exercise as merely a tool to acquire physical appeal. On the most basic level, exercise serves to maintain the good function and health of our body systems. We should all strive to be fit for that reason, if not that reason alone. Too many people get caught up in physical appeal as the primary goal of exercise and value only those people with a specific physique. It’s a reality that everyone has their own unique shape. The attractiveness of one body over another is subjective, making the above introductory comments a frivolous regurgitation from an insecure individual who lacks sight of the whole picture: taking care of that which you’ve been given because our bodies require maintenance for good health. It’s that simple.
“Ewww, women with muscle look disgusting.” The woman who says this doesn’t really believe what she’s saying. She’s simply unaccustomed to seeing a woman in superior shape and is probably influenced by the old-world beauty ideal of skinny, shapelessness. The sight of a woman with a well-built, athletic physique spurs a shock to her ego and blows her insecurities wide open. She lacks the discipline to lose a few extra pounds, let alone obtain a lean, muscular physique—such is why she spews this negative statement.
Random Outbursts of Laughter
Practiced by little girls and grown women around the world. This is a classic loud and disruptive manifestation of jealousy and/or insecurity. It is inversely used in an attempt to make the receiver feel insecure. This tactic is as feeble as it is petty and often starts on the playground. Sometimes it’s used to gain your attention, so the loud, disruptive female can model for you (listed above) or make a face of disgust or displeasure at you. In all, it’s sad any human functions this way in the modern world. We’ve left the caves, ladies—and girls.
Yes, that was a rant, and I’m sure it reads like one. Still, I’m certain I’ve left things out; insecurity knows no bounds and leads to all kinds of irrational behavior and outbursts. The question now is: why are so many women so negative toward each other? Isn’t this the age of women’s equality, female superheroes on big screens, female CEOs, and women running for President? The answer is female-on-female competitiveness is still embedded in the psyches of many. Insecurity sprouts from that reality. The regurgitations, outbursts, and actions detailed in this rant are rooted in insecurities.
Even in an era of women shouting “girl power” and equality to men, obtaining a fit, lean physique, and maintaining an ideal weight is still a struggle for many. This is regardless of being dead-center in the information age and knowledge about fat loss and fitness being easily obtainable. Unfortunately, too many of us turn to celebrities (shiny, attention-grabbing objects), magazines, and quick-fix articles in product-driven online sites for guidance, instead of turning to more logical sources: professional trainers, coaches, fitness institutions, and books written by them. And, instead of supporting a woman who has overcome this challenge and seeking to learn from her, it’s the impulse, and perhaps instinct, of other women to seek blemishes and carry out some mode to belittle her and her accomplishments. This competitive, cavewoman behavior makes me wonder how much girl power can be mustered in a world where everyday female interactions are often plagued by primal urges to undercut one another. Something to think about.
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As an athlete for over 19 years and a broke single mom for most of that time, I created brokesinglemomfitness.com, now LLAFIT.com, to aid anyone who believes the road to fitness requires a lot of cash or time. In reality, the way to fitness is paved with knowledge and firm principles; teaching readers how to master both is the goal of this site. LLAFIT – Lifelong Applied Fitness