AYT USA: Judgey at the gym – the power of words


This was one of those weeks for me where everything seemed to centre around one theme. Like when you learn a new word and then suddenly you see it everywhere and realise you’ve been skimming over it for years? Well, since moving to the city, I think I’ve been skimming over the power of words themselves, and how they can affect our creative environment.

One of my many jobs in the city is working at a very classy gym. As part of my compensation, I get a free membership, which I use liberally. The classes are amazing, plus they are free. The free part is my favorite part.

A couple of weeks ago, I was waiting outside the dance studio for one of these classes to begin, and happened to hear a very unsettling conversation involving a good number of the women in the hallway. They were all talking about the gift they’d purchased for the teacher as an end of the year thank you. The exchange went something like this (names have been changed):

Woman A: Megan got everyone’s attention at the end of class so we could give it to him.

Woman B: Megan? Who’s Megan?

Woman A: Oh, you know! Megan! The tall, beautiful dancer.

Woman C: I don’t think she’s a beautiful dancer. She dances kind of like Gumby.

Excuse me, what? Let’s back up here. Did I mention this class was at the gym? This is not American Ballet Theater folks. People are here to burn some calories, not to show off their Baryshnikov-like leaps! I was absolutely appalled by her rudeness. I would never have expected such “mean girl” behavior from a grown woman. Not only was she bad-mouthing some poor girl who wasn’t even there to defend herself, but she was doing it in front of the whole class. And the insult itself was just so low. I subsequently felt constantly judged during my workout, and probably always will.

Just a few days later, I had another experience which proved to me how powerful off-hand comments can be. I was randomly Googling my mother — don’t ask — and I came across a quote on someone’s blog. The author said that my mother had, “read [her] poem,” and that my mother’s, “simple act of encouragement sustained [her] for a year”. A year? I was overwhelmed. My mother had made a huge impact on this woman’s life. This made me a very proud daughter — although I already was — but it also struck me as an artist. The littlest comments we make amongst our creative peers can mean so much, and we don’t even think about them.

When I was about 12 years old, Sheila Donovan, an older and much cooler girl than I, told me I sounded beautiful on a song we were singing with a large group of kids as part of a medley. I was probably very obviously nervous and awkward, and Sheila was nice enough to say something that made me smile and has stuck with me for over nine years.

So, recently I’ve been trying to be freer with my compliments. I say, spread the love! Instead of awkwardly staring at Marc Kudisch at the gym, go up and tell him how awesome he is! Okay, that may only apply to my bizarre life. But, in all seriousness, everyone makes an impact on this world. Now, it’s your choice whether that impact is positive or negative.

Image: Jogging on a bright November morning