I remember the day that statement really bothered me. I was training a client in the gym alongside my colleague who is one of the strongest, kindest women I know and who also happens to have amazing arms. For some reason, I let that compliment my client had made about the other trainer really get to me. All of these crazy thoughts flooded my head.
….are my arms not toned enough? Do I not look strong? Does she want to be trained by her instead?
After a few minutes of letting negative thoughts about myself and my own physique consume me, I snapped out of it. But that statement is one that somewhat haunts me even years later if I let it.
Finding the flaws
As a fitness professional, it is easy to really nitpick at things I wish looked better on my body. In my mind, eyes are always on me. What is she eating? How many times a week does she work out? Oh, look! She had that piece of cake at the birthday party.
But the more I think about it, it seems that women, in general, are programmed to think and react this way. Why?
I am not a psychologist so cannot speak from a professional point of view on the psychology of this, but I can speak from experience – from someone who has been overweight, too thin, too muscular, not muscular enough (not all at the same time, of course).
“The perfect body”
I probably don’t need to point out the obvious – social media. From posts showing six-pack stomachs ten days after childbirth to companies airbrushing models to have the “perfect” body, it is easy for women to feel less than.
To feel flawed
Too many rolls
Not enough that.
And we find ourselves comparing, not just to those models and women on social media who ‘bounced back,’ but to our friends, cousins, sisters, even the stranger in Target. Saying things like:
I wish I had her arms.
I wish I had her butt.
I wish I had her legs.
….you get the picture.
I’ll say it. Girls can be mean.
Have you ever been having coffee with a friend or overheard a conversation where a group of women started talking badly about someone they know, or even someone who just walked by? I know I have. And it’s easy to get sucked down that rabbit hole of negativity.
I remember when I started my fitness journey and had reached a huge goal – I was at a healthy body fat percentage and had accomplished unassisted pull-ups for the first time in my life. I was feeling so strong and confident.
I had lunch with a friend who I hadn’t seen in a few months, and instead of her being happy for me that I had ditched the sodas for the gym, she made me feel bad and said she could have done that too if she worked from home … Huh?
It was at that moment that I realized others’ insecurities are often portrayed outwardly in unkind words. I decided then that going forward, I would be intentional about surrounding myself with those who lifted one another up, celebrated the highs and were there for the lows. I decided then that although I’ll never be perfect, it is so freeing to choose positivity and encouragement over the latter.
Not just to others, but to ourselves. We tell our kids to be kind to others and to treat others how we want to be treated, but do we tell them to be kind to themselves? A few years ago I started practicing affirmations. “I AM” statements instead of “I WISH” statements.
I am strong instead of I wish I had her arms.
I am confident instead of I wonder what they think of how I look.
I am enough instead of I wish I had more.
A dear friend shared that she also gives her children positive affirmations for themselves each day as well. So each night, I give both my boys three positive affirmations. My five-year-old asks for his three words before bed and these words are the last they hear from me aside from I love you. If nothing else, I hope these words empower them to believe in themselves and share kindness with others.
Oh, and about “her arms.” Instead of worrying about what that person thinks of my arms, I smile and agree that yes, she does have such great, strong arms. Paying compliments is contagious and truly puts smiles on faces. So pay it forward – compliment that stranger in Target on whatever you’re admiring and see how good it feels when you see their face light up. You probably just made their day.