I am not a trendsetter.
I was the last one in college (in New York City might I add) to purchase a pair of Uggs right when it became a thing. That is, until I hurt my foot so bad and the only thing I could walk in were my roommates’ Ugg boots.
I now own four pairs.
Growing up I never sought to be skinny. I wanted to look, be and feel athletic. While my high school friends wanted thigh gaps, I wanted thick, defined quads like a lacrosse player.
The point is, I’m not one to jump on any bandwagon unless I’m utterly convinced the wagon offers something worthwhile. Like Uggs. Totally worth it no matter how ugly they are.
This brings me to the body image/body positivity movement of the last year. It seems like everyone from fitness professionals to beauty brands is on that bandwagon, preaching the gospel of body acceptance and positive self image for women. I love that the conversation is happening; body acceptance is a necessary part of our cultural evolution and hopefully, this dialogue continues to drown out petty, body-shaming turds like this one:
Up until this point, I never felt a need to chime in and discuss body image. Yes, I coach women about mindset and how it directly impacts our choices in health and fitness, but it’s not really my style to jump on a soap box and discuss this on a larger platform. We have plenty of strong, capable women doing this work in an exceptional way and I’d rather listen to them than offer up my two cents.
But last night I had an epic ‘a-ha’ moment.
After another awesome workout session, followed by a 2-hour business chat over ice cream with my powerlifting coach (because gains, right?) I did something incredibly out of character.
I stood in front of the mirror in my underwear and celebrated the fuck out of my body.
It was unintentional at first. I had just showered and decided to check things out in the mirror and see how things were progressing from all the powerlifting.
I was worried my butt was getting smaller (can’t have that) but when I just flaunted that thing in the mirror I laughed at how ridiculous that thought even was! My butt looked perfectly round and perky. My waistline, though thicker than when I was in my 20’s, showed more muscle and subtle definition.
I worked my way up to my arms and noticed how much stronger they were from a few months ago. My upper body is always the first to get some serious definition from lifting, but this was different than my past training. It looked like the arms of a woman who knows how to lift a barbell. My biceps weren’t defined in some grotesque hulk-like fashion. These were the arms of a woman who felt perfectly at home in the weight room. This was an athlete’s arm, not some toned, sculpted arm for the sole purpose of looking sexy in a tank top.
As I continued with this examination I found myself more and more satisfied with how I looked. It was the first time I actually looked at my body through those lenses – without judgement, without a preconceived notion of what it “should” look like. A body that didn’t need any fixing, just acknowledgement.
I admired and found myself completely at peace with how my body looked in that moment. Stretch marks, cellulite, jiggle….I didn’t even notice those so-called imperfections because all I could think was “wow, my body looks incredible! Who knew I’d respond so well to powerlifting?” Without realizing it, I was actually celebrating my body, a concept we hear a lot in the body positivity movement but don’t actually know how to do.
The next day, it dawned on me that what I did the night before is likely uncharacteristic for 99% of women in America.
Instead, we look in the mirror and criticize. Our eyes fall to the areas that need fixing, hiding or judgement, and we resent ourselves more for not being disciplined enough, strong enough, defined enough….enough….enough….enough. The language of “I am not enough” seeps out and reflects back at us. We feel shame, guilt and annoyance.
So we make another green smoothie.
Schedule a second workout.
Hire a new trainer.
Start a new program.
Skip a meal.
All in an effort to fix what we find is not enough about ourselves.
So while I love the body image/acceptance movement for telling us to love ourselves, change our inner dialogue and commit to this or that dogma, I can honestly say I have yet to hear women talking about HOW they’ve done this well.
We don’t need more Instagram images of someone’s naked body with hashtags #ilovemyself to make this point. Body acceptance is not the same as a public display of our assets. It’s about what happens in the privacy of our homes and in our heads. When we step out of the shower, when we first wake up, when we walk by the mirror after an exhilarating workout.
Stand in front of the mirror and admire the view. Celebrate everything that is happening right there and then.
When you walk into the gym or group fitness class, work your ass off out of celebration of how healthy and capable you are, not shame, guilt or punishment.
When you wake up and stumble into the bathroom with hair out of place and your oversized college tee that has holes and stains on it from years of use say aloud “Hello Gorgeous.”
Do this everyday.
Every. Single. Day.
I think that the only reason I was able to stand in front of the mirror half naked by myself and celebrate what I saw reflecting back at me was because months ago I made a commitment to look in the mirror and say something to myself in the same loving way that a romantic partner speaks to me. I put a little reminder of this new ritual on an index card that greets me every morning as I get ready – “Hello gorgeous”. It’s not an affirmation but a gentle reminder to stay mindful of how I speak to myself on a moment to moment basis. So on days I walk by and notice my hair looks a hot mess, I acknowledge how wonderful it is to have so much thick hair and just brush it in place without the unnecessary judgement.
To attract what you want, you must be what you want. And I want a life that looks and feels beautiful in all of its ordinary moments all on its own, regardless of who is waking up beside me, complimenting my outfit, or how much weight is on the bar.