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I am a 5’0″ tall, 110lb woman. I lack a commanding presence and am quite shy in person. The word “strong” would not be one of the first words that spring to mind when you see or speak to me. In fact, I would probably be described by many people as “just a stay at home mom.” I’m not offended though, because I do stay at home, and I am a mom. However, what you can’t see by looking at me, is that I thrived in two traditionally masculine worlds. I was a soldier in the United States Army and competed in olympic style weightlifting. For this post, I’m so honored to be able to team up with Brawny® to share a piece of my life’s story in support of the Strength Has No Gender™ campaign. I’d like to show you all what it means to me to be strong “like a girl”.
The Brawny® Stength Has No Gender™ campaign is featuring women across the United States who are succeeding in industries that are traditionally dominated by men. To show their full support for empowering women during International Women’s Day on March 8th, they’ve even replaced the famous Brawny® man on the Brawny® Pick-a-Size 8 Giant Plus packs, with a woman! How cool is that? Okay, now onto the story…
When I was 22 years old, a good friend of mine joined the Army Reserves and encouraged me to do the same. As a lover of activities and all things challenging, I thought it might be a good fit. At the time, I was also looking for a career change. When I consulted my family, my father told me it was something that he always wished he had done. It was then that I realized that if I wanted to serve my country, there was a slim chance I would do so once I was older. Shortly after that conversation, I enlisted and left to attend Basic Combat Training (BCT).
Fast forward about a year and a half later and there I was, deployed to Afghanistan. I was one of two females in my unit. To be honest, we had great leadership who looked out for us constantly. As females, we were sometimes kept from tasks that could put us in danger of being assaulted, or put anyone else’s safety at risk. While I was grateful that my safety was kept in mind, this meant that I would not have the same experiences listed on my evaluation when it came time for promotion, as my fellow male soldiers.
Knowing that I would have to work a little harder to measure up to the guys, I did everything possible to earn my next rank. In an attempt to stand out, I thought, “what makes me different?” My answer was my amount of determination and desire to succeed. If this meant getting up early or staying up late, then so be it. We all have the same amount of hours in a day, the difference is in how you use it, right? After becoming as efficient as possible at my job, taking countless extra classes, and working out twice a day to better my score on our fitness test, the hard work paid off. I earned that promotion just a few months after we returned home, and before most of my male counterparts at that!
Now, I mentioned working out during deployment and making fitness improvements. My two-a-day workouts often consisted of at least one CrossFit (CF) style workout. Doing this, I improved so greatly that my fitness score beat all of the men in my unit. Not only when measured by the female scale that is used, but also by the men’s scale! This is when I realized that most guys don’t want to be beat by a girl, particularly one of my stature. I started hearing things like “you’re strong for a girl” and “you couldn’t do that if you weighed more”. Anything to discredit my accomplishments. While sometimes these comments struck a nerve, they also fueled the little fire inside me.
When I returned home, I wanted to continue to improve. After signing up at my first real CF gym, I attended classes daily. It was here that I was introduced to the sport of weightlifting which, like the military, was also traditionally dominated by men. The difference was that as I improved, the men who surrounded me were proud and supportive. I became, pound for pound, one of the strongest individuals (male or female!) in my gym, and also made it to the national level. Instead of being competitive with me, my workout pals recognized that we shared a goal, and encouraged me instead. In other words, they truly treated me as if strength had no gender, and in turn, helped me to succeed.
What I specifically want to share with readers about the gym, is not just that I became physically stronger. My deployment taught me a bit about perseverance and grit, which in turn, helped me with mental strength during workouts. Weightlifting is an individual sport. If I messed up, it was my fault. No one could pick the weight up for me or fix any of my many flaws. Without the strength inside of my mind, I wouldn’t have been able to push myself to any physical limits.
During my time as a soldier and my time as a competitive weightlifter, I have learned a few lessons from traditionally male dominated worlds. The first, is just what Brawny® is promoting, that Strength Has No Gender™. Just because you’re surrounded by men at your job or activities, doesn’t mean that they will automatically succeed above you. The second is that there is strength in community. To me, Strength Has No Gender™ is not only conveying that women are strong too, but that we are all strong together. My greatest supporters have been both men and women, and I hope to teach my two boys that we don’t get stronger by tearing each other down.
If you haven’t had a chance to check out the Brawny® Pick-a-Size 8 Giant Plus packaging sporting a strong woman on the front, please check out your local Walmart! Not only is the packaging unique, but the paper towels also offer more sheets on every roll, compared to leading competitors. I’m certainly happy about this, because since having kids, I have more cleaning up to do now, than ever. As always, if you have a story to share with me, feel free to comment or send me a message! If you’re interested in learning more about the campaign, I’ve attached a video below as well.