Roller Derby and Me: Body Image

A guest post from Sticky Wickhit. Wickhit joined Sheffield Steel Roller Derby in October 2015. Below she describes how roller derby has improved her body confidence.

Wickhit before her first ever roller derby session.
Photo credit: Wickhit’s Mum 🙂

This picture is me the first time I’d ever put my skates on, and first up: nobody had told me how to wear a helmet properly, okay? Just getting that out of the way now. And with that aside, I’d probably better explain the way I’m dressed…

…because that was how I was comfortable dressing. I didn’t dare to wear leggings, because I thought my legs looked weird. I didn’t dare to wear anything that showed my arms; if I had to wear a t-shirt, I’d wear a longer sleeved one underneath it. I have what I assume is a kind of eczema, where my skin – but particularly my upper arms – bubbles up in little red marks, especially when I’m too hot or sweating, or itches to the point where I have to scratch and it scars. And I’d become convinced that every time anybody looked at me, they would notice it and go ‘ewww’. So I kept it covered up as best I could, even if it meant boiling during summer.

Going to roller derby for the first time was massively daunting, and not just because I’d never been on skates before! I’d followed advice and worn what I thought was tight clothing, but which probably wasn’t by anybody else’s standards, and I felt like I was going to walk in and all these athletic looking women were going to take one look at me and laugh behind their hands. Yes, yes, I know. It was a stupid thing to think, but at the time I’d convinced myself that it was entirely realistic.

I don’t think I’ve ever been so wrong in my life.

It took me a long time to get comfortable with roller derby. For the first few weeks I felt like I was going nowhere, especially as I was spending so much of my time on the floor getting up again. I questioned everything: whether I’d just done something monumentally ridiculous in signing up for this; whether I was ever going to even be able to skate across a room and turn around; and my own confidence, over and over. I found myself habitually ‘hugging’ my arms during moments of stillness, or tugging at my leggings to try and hide their tightness as much as I could, and then wondered if I was just drawing attention to the very things I was trying to avoid. I was well outside my comfort zone in so many ways and it was very, very challenging. For every session that I left feeling like I’d achieved something, there was a session where all I could think about was how much I hated wearing vest tops, and I left convinced that this wasn’t for me and I’d never manage anything at all.

And yet…I kept coming back. And the more I went, the more these things became background. Every time I successfully managed a transition (after many, many, many weeks), it mattered a little less what I looked like doing it. Every time I added another lap to my attempts to skate 27 in 5, I cared a little less about my legs, or my arms, or anything other than getting that next lap. Or pushing for one more lateral, or knocking an extra half second off weaving…well, you get the idea.

And the more I noticed that NOBODY ELSE CARED EITHER.

This next picture is me after one year of roller derby.

Wickhit now.
Photo by Roller Derby on Film

I’m not saying that any of the main issues have changed. My legs probably do look weird. My arms are still covered in bumps and scars. But the difference is that now I don’t care, because I know that’s not what my body is about. It can do things I thought it would never, ever be able to do, and every week I’m slowly adding more and more to that list. What’s a few bumps and lumps to that?

So if you’re out there wondering if you should take up roller derby, and thinking that maybe you’re not strong enough, or not confident enough, or not aggressive enough, tell that part of you to shut up and just do it. It’s not necessarily easy. But it is worth it. You’ll thank yourself every time you look in a mirror.

Looking forward to all the years to come ðŸ™‚
~ Wickhit xD

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