Way back when I was a kid in the 70s, there were some pretty common techniques seen in parenting, sports, and other social interactions.
“Stop crying. You’ll never be a man, boo-hooing like a little girl.”
“C’mon, pnssy. You’re not hurt that bad. Buck up and do your job!”
“Don’t eat that. Do you want to gain weight? No guy wants a fat girl.”
If anyone had dared call another person out on the fact that condescension, shaming, and belittling were damaging, there would’ve been more incredulity than a soccer player with the “WHAT?!” hands.
“I’m not being mean! I’m just encouraging her (him). How else is she (he) going to be an adult?”
I really thought we’d come a long way since then. And to be fair, there are times in which I’ve felt we’ve gone a little too far over to the other side.
But there is a growing trend on Facebook and other social media sites – a simple phrase attached to any number of accomplishments – designed to prove that the poster is oh-so-much better than you are. But it doesn’t end there. Because any reason you have for not being as good as they are is simply not worthy of consideration.
“What’s your excuse?”
Perhaps the most popular firestorm over this phrase came from here. This mom who has 3 kids under 3, overcame an eating disorder, now works out every single day without fail, and wants you to know that if you don’t the same thing, you suck. But if you do decide to emulate her every move, you too, can be awesome! And you do want to be awesome, don’t you? Because you don’t have reasons or circumstances not to. You simply have excuses.
That’s right. An excuse. She is in the position to judge, and to condemn, when you don’t measure up to her standards. Just like the other people you see on Facebook.
Haven’t run a 5K yet? What’s your excuse?
Haven’t gotten 100% out of debt, with a fluffy 401K waiting? What’s your excuse?
Haven’t reached 8% body fat, wearing sample size clothing? What’s your excuse?
Haven’t gotten your PhD yet? What’s your excuse?
The narcissistic imbeciles who perpetuate this phenomenon champion their caterwauling by calling it “motivation”. They’re not being mean! They’d neeeeeever judge you, nooooo. They’re just trying to show you that they, with all of their obstacles to be overcome, were able to accomplish this amazing feat. And if you just try like they did, you could do it, too! Using the judgmental query, “What’s your excuse?” is simply a metaphor for your own pathetic lack of effort in managing your life.
And of course, anyone who can’t see the fact that they’re simply trying to be your own personal cheerleader, the Zig Ziglar in your back pocket, the Stephen Covey to your Tony Little, well, that’s simply your own self-defeating attitude.
So it got me thinking about fitness, as that’s the most common use of the question in question. What is my excuse for not being a size 6, running 5Ks, with minimal body fat?
(And yes, these are merely excuses, since clearly, none of them can be considered legitimate.)
1. a permanent disability that renders me unable to walk without the support of a brace and crutches
2. a neurological condition involving compression of my spinal cord that prevents me from doing a lot of normal exercises
3. a medication regimen to deal with both of those that includes 5 different drugs with sedating effects
4. a full time job that is easily over 40 hours per week, along with an hour commute in each direction plus a part time job that takes up another 20 hours per week or so
5. a love of creative projects such as photography and quilting, neither of which provide aerobic benefits
6. a love for cooking and baking, and yes, eating, which I choose not to relinquish
OK. There is my Excuse List. Could I make changes in my life to fit more into the ideal body image of the “What’s Your Excuse” crew? Absolutely. I could curb my sweet tooth. I could trade my down time for more workouts. I could grow a money tree in my yard in order to have gym fees so I could swim on the nights when I don’t teach. I won’t see The Scientist, kids, or friends, but hey, that’s simply another excuse! Spending next weekend with The Quilter wouldn’t happen – after all, where’s the benefit of sewing fun projects and talking with a beloved friend for 3 days?
But then I realized that there was one component to the whole equation that I’d overlooked. I’d forgotten the fact that I don’t need to justify my life to anyone, much less someone who needs to be “better than you” in order to feel good about themselves. Those who demand to know my “excuse” for not living up to their expectations are projecting their own inadequacies onto their peers. I would almost feel bad for them for the fact that they can’t find their own peace within themselves without comparing their lives to those of other people, but I don’t have much patience for adults who act like schoolyard children.
So, in answer to your question, I do not have a real excuse. I simply don’t care enough to compare myself to you, and I simply don’t care enough to feed your own pitiful ego so you can feel that much better about whatever you’ve decided to do in your life.
Instead, I’ll focus on my own adage, “Manage your disability or it will manage you.” I’ll focus on the fact that I love the strength I’ve build in my upper body through the use of a wheelchair, crutches, and yes, even weight lifting. I’ll remind myself that even with an inability to do almost all aerobic exercises currently available, I have lost about 50 pounds. I’ll remember that the people in my life whose opinions truly matter to me find me beautiful inside as well as outside. And most of all, I’ll live with the certainty that the only person whose approval I truly need is me.