When Netflix suggested Physical 100 as a recommended watch, my first thought was “Why would someone go on and create another Squid Games?”.
I’m glad I let myself watch the trailer, because I appreciate the readjustment of self perception I experienced through it. Crisp, simple and beautifully-edited, Physical 100 is minimally dramatic yet maximally inspiring. The show takes contestants from various sporting fields (and physically-demanding jobs) and challenges them with both simple and complex tasks that test their physical abilities and mental fortitude. From national-level Judo players to MMA fighters, stuntwomen to award-winning bodybuilders, and even the occasional Olympic champion, the competitors have one unifying personality marker: they’re all known to be at the top of their game.
As the participants sized their competition at the beginning of the show, I found myself doing the same - “What strength does this person have?”, “Huge arms, this person can crush you!”, “This is the person to watch out for” - and it was all based on the physique and stature of the person. We do build these perceptions unconsciously. So you can imagine that it was a pleasant surprise when those perceptions crashed.
I constantly found myself ‘oohing’ and ‘aahing’ and ‘wtfing’ at the unexpected course this show takes. Through some deceptively simple (but also, excruciating) tasks, the show challenges the viewers and the participants' perceptions of strength. The unexpected winners of each task start to slowly unveil a broader definition of physical strength, one that we might not always notice in a person’s physique, creativity, tenacity, self-belief, intuition, a deep connection with their body, and sometimes, even sheer will.
We frequently see unexpected winners emerge from unevenly matched competitors. Sometimes, because their speed, strength and agility were underestimated, sometimes, because of their physique, and sometimes, because of a strong determination, perseverance and desire to keep going. It got me thinking about how our own evaluations of our strength can also lull us into a sense of security and how an objective evaluation of one’s weaknesses and a desire to make up for them can be converted into an advantage. As the participants start to take into account factors apart from one's physique, you start to consider the same. Am I basing my idea of what I can or cannot do by testing it out or on the perceptions I have formed?
Watching participants creatively and intuitively dig into their other faculties and give their all - even though they appear to be at a disadvantage - was inspiring and spoke about how visual representations can often be deceptive, but more importantly, what can come off when we fight the urge to write ourselves off prematurely.
The contestants of Physical 100 reminded me of the value of appreciating what I bring to the table when faced with something that can feel overwhelming and larger than me. And it taught me a really big life lesson. What’s that, you ask?
That when meeting an obstacle before you, don't lose sight of yourself!
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