Post: Health Check

Health Check

Recently, I was in a car with a couple of people going on a bit of a trip to see some cool nature. For fun I will put in some cool pics of the nature we saw spliced throughout this blog. I’m no great photographer but we all love fungi right?….and fagus.

The point of the story, however, comes on the car ride. I was in the back, minding my own business as I couldn’t easily hear much of the conversation up the front. About 3/4 of the way there, the person in the passenger seat developed the hiccups. Not life threatening obviously but kind of irritating for the person afflicted.

The hiccups developed into more serious hiccups and soon the whole car was intermittently startled as small screeches issued forth from the passenger seat. I continuously had my attention pulled away from whatever I was focusing on as the doom hiccups continued.

Each time I found myself getting ever so slightly more irritated and irrational. My mind started by asking innocent yet blame-ridden questions like “What did they eat?” or “did they drink water in a funny way?”. As the hiccups continued my internal monologue shifted in tone to things such as “I think it’s time to stop just letting them happen, please attend to your hiccups”. The hiccups were not attended to and my capacity to deal with them deteriorated until I was thinking things along the lines of “what the actual hell, who hiccups like this?”, “are they just doing this for attention now?” or “come on, this is enough, you’re being rude now, sort it out.”

It was at this point that I finally had the thought to check myself. What on earth was I thinking? A person cannot control hiccups in any way. They do not choose to have them, nor do they choose the length, severity or frequency as far as I know. How much can you manage your screech hiccups while sitting in a car? Probably not a whole lot at all. I don’t think anyone loves the idea of having everyone thinking about why they are screech hiccuping and would probably prefer to not have them in the first place. Failing that if they could exert some level of control to stop them, they would.

I have never had screech hiccups before, but I’ve had hiccups and they just happen to you. Without your input. They come and they go. C’est la vie. I imagine this is a fairly universal experience.

So why was I getting this frustrated with someone else having hiccups and also having these silly, unreasonable ideas about what they should do about it? Sure, it disturbed my peace, a little bit. Big deal. I should have been able to deal with that.

What I realised was that my reaction was based on the fact that *I* was polite enough to never have this situation occur to me. What a paragon of good manners I am. This clouded my empathy and ability to be reasonable. This doesn’t happen to me, therefore it’s actually quite rude if you do it. What a nonsense mindset to end up in.

It made me stop and think, and check my health privilege at the door. I did some internal recalibrating, some gentle chiding and a compliment sandwich and turned into a reasonable human again. All of this occurred solely within my mind and by the time I said anything to the afflicted person, I was able show concern, of the genuine sort, and feel for them rather than for me.

I also came to the conclusion that personally, and in the wider gym and fitness community, we have a tendency to display this privilege fairly ruthlessly. A lot of us “professionals” in the industry have been able to get to the place we’re at because our body has been our ally and thrown us no real curveballs on our way to a comparatively high level of physical fitness and/or aptitude. Now of course there are exceptions to this, people with really severe physical handicaps who have overcome them and become industry pros and rolemodels and to them I tip my cap enduringly, however, the rest of us have pretty much just been lucky in addition to any work we’ve put in.

We show models and results that are simply unattainable for many people and victim blame when it doesn’t work (this is the business model most fitness business coaches will preach by the way…our programs work and if you don’t get results it’s because you didn’t do it right, give us more money and we can fix you).

We have a tendency to assume that because through our sheer will and intellect we did it (whatever *it* is), that other people can too, and if they struggle it’s because they don’t have the commitment levels we had on the same journey.

This is such a misguided and unhelpful attitude. It’s exclusionary rather than inclusive and sets people up to fail the comparison game as no matter who you are there is alway someone better at something than you.

This car trip was a really good kick in the empathy brain for me as it highlighted that my privilege when it comes to health was insidious and unconscious. However realising what was happening gave me the tools to counteract it and change my approach to what I may have otherwise believed were reasonable feelings and reactions.

My silly reaction to these hiccups felt reasonable and normal. That seems to be the real lesson here. Privilege doesn’t feel like privilege, it feels like…nothing. Like normal.

I have my white privilege, my male privilege, my straight privilege made obvious to me fairly often. I have had to confront these different issues and reconcile them and choose how I want to interact with the world based on what I know.

I didn’t even think about the health privilege thing but that’s a failing on my part as it is critical to being a good trainer and having a great relationship with clients. It’s a crucial mindset to know that good health is about hard work but it’s also some dumb luck a lot of the time, just as poor health can be bad luck.

So here’s the take home message. I found an unconscious privilege mindset that was warping my reactions and giving me unhelpful and potentially relationship damaging thoughts. I was able to identify and address this. I’m still going to have dumb reactions all the time, I have no doubt, but I should be able to use my slightly less dumb brain to overcome and show more empathy and encourage people instead of blame.

I hope this makes me a more enjoyable and rewarding trainer to work with going forwards and a better human to be around. I hope more people are able to realise what unconscious privileges are shaping their thoughts and have similar revelations to what I did. I also hope people feel encouraged to tell me, or others, when privilege is turning them into a bit of a dick. Because we try not to be a dick. Always.

Also, Fungus.