This year we announced the first ever “SweatBlock Social Confidence” Scholarship. The response was encouraging. We received so many great entries, but unfortunately only one student can win the annual $2000 scholarship award.
We enjoyed reading each entry and appreciate the thoughtful effort dedicated to each essay. Over the next couple weeks we will share with you the top 10 essay entries with the final being the winner.
So, without further delay, here is the first of the runners-up from Leah of SIU:
Positive and Negative Sweat
My name is Leah and I attend Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois. I have experienced many different times when the issue of sweat has arisen since I have been at college. There have been numerous times when it has come up during both positive and negative experiences. Sweat can be a very positive symptom and something that shows how hard someone is working, but there are also many times when sweating can be seen as negative and unattractive because people feel that it is a time when someone should not be sweating.
One of the experiences I have had where sweat is always positive is through athletics. I have played competitive volleyball for the last six years and now play for Southern Illinois University. Through my practices and games it has always been looked at positively if you are sweating. If you are sweating it means that you are working extremely hard and putting forth your full effort. Often in volleyball sweat is looked at as such an acceptable and normal occurrence, that effort is questioned if you are not sweating. This is true for not only volleyball but for any sport. When people see professional athletes on television during sporting events, they do not think sweat is gross or unattractive, but instead admire that they are putting so much into the game they love.
Another time when sweat is looked at in a positive light is when someone is putting hard work into a job they are completing. There are many jobs where people are sitting down at a desk all day. Although most of the time these people are completing difficult mental tasks, many people prefer this type of job to a physically active one. One person that I have been able to look up to and see how important hard work is, is my father. He has always worked at the High School that I attended in Louisville, Kentucky and has been a teacher and administrator. A couple of years ago, the school’s employee who was in charge of school maintenance retired and the school needed someone else to step in and fill that job. My dad took that job over along with his other administrative duties. He now is in charge of mowing all the grass, fixing broken appliances, changing light bulbs, and all other work that has to do with keeping the grounds up to date and manicured. This may seem like menial work, but my dad receives praise from many other faculty and staff members regarding how hard he is working each day. In this case, sweating all day by working on maintaining the campus is seen as acceptable. Sweat in this instance represents important jobs being completed that are behind the scenes and that most people forget about. Sweat again can be seen as representing someone who is hardworking and does not mind getting sweaty in order to complete a task that others will benefit from.
These two examples show how sweat really can be seen in a positive light. Although this is true, people tend to see sweat much more negatively; especially when it is in excess. I myself struggled a great deal with sweating too much in situations where it was not accepted. I got to the point where I rarely wore colored shirts because sweat is not as noticeable on black or white shirts. This was not an enjoyable time, but as I got older the problem lessened and I learned of products that would help. Although the hyperhidrosis is not as much of a problem anymore, I still have had many experiences where sweat was a negative and unattractive experience.
One experience I have had where sweat is looked at negatively is in public speaking and class presentations. It is normal for one to be nervous when speaking in front of others and presenting an idea, but it is not looked at as normal for them to show their nervousness through sweating. There have been many times when I have been in front of a class room and felt myself start to sweat and realize that this would be a situation where it is not acceptable to sweat. In this situation though, sometimes thinking about your sweating makes you even more nervous and then you continue to sweat more. This then adds to the negative connotation of sweat during the speech.
A second time I have experienced that sweat was looked at negatively was when limited physical activity was done. For example, when it is extremely hot and humid outside, simply walking across campus can make a person sweat. However, when physical activity is normally looked at as a positive reason to sweat, if it is only a small amount, this does not apply anymore. It is looked at negatively in this specific experience because sweat is only looked at positively when one is supposed to be working hard and activities such as walking up a couple flights of stairs, or walking across campus should not be very physically challenging. People do not realize that sometimes sweat can arise without strenuous activities beforehand..
Although normally sweat is looked at negatively, there are starting to be more times when sweat is accepted because it represents hard work. People still tend to be judgmental of others who sweat a lot, but hopefully with more understanding of hyperhidrosis and with the better products to help stop sweating being made, the embarrassment of excessive sweating will decrease. Right now there are definitely both times when sweat is positive and negative, and this probably will always be the case, but hopefully society will adapt and start to see the benefits of sweat, especially when it represents the hard work of people.