I’ve had a few people recently tell me that I look like I’ve lost weight. In particular after I posted this photo online. And while that’s nice to hear, my immediate response is “maybe, but not enough.” And then I think it over a bit more, realise that I’m still nowhere near what I want to look like / weigh and just assume that I must have been a right fat git before if people think that this is better.
It’s funny how we react to things like this isn’t it? I’m the same when anyone tells me that my swimming is better / faster, it’s nice to hear but I react with a combination of not quite believing it and seeing just how much more improvement there is still to make.
I’ve been meaning to post this for a couple of weeks and then on the Facebook page of Team Bear someone posted a link to a great article by Chrissie Wellington about Beating Body Confidence Issues. Then we started discussing it in the group.
In the article itself a couple of lines jumped out at me:
“…really, our bodies are not the external form, but the internal – muscles, bones, blood, tendons and, of course, the mind… Our focus should be less on what our bodies look like, and more on what we can do with them each and every day.”
“Whether or not we have a spare few pounds around our waist shouldn’t define us, or our emotions. So please – be kind to yourself.”
And then the Facebook discussion yielded some excellent insight:
“People make the mistake of judging by physical appearance.“
“The godlike men and women at the lake turned out to be relatively normal and very nice people.”
“I get far more inspiration from reading running and triathlon blogs from the average people that you describe, who are fighting similar battles to me, rather than the fitness models and the professionals that are on another level.“
“It’s interesting to learn that some of you have those negative images that I would look at and think I wish I looked more like that.“
So here’s my attempt to say something clever about it all.
I can’t say what things are like from a girl’s / woman’s perspective, but I think that body confidence issues are ones that most people (regardless of sex) suffer from. The media is particularly cruel to women, but is rarely positive about any ‘normal’ shape. I know that I always had issues throughout my younger life and still do now. The difference now is that while those issues are still there, they aren’t anywhere near as important as some of the other issues – some which are genuine life stuff (work, family, money etc) and some which are training related (I’m more concerned about my swimming times than my waistline).
I like the sentiment that my body should be defined by what it can do, rather than what it looks like. And I’m very proud of some of the things that it has done – that doesn’t stop me wanting to be slimmer too.
For many people a very positive step to having a better body image (both a better body, and a better image about it) is to take part in sport and to realise just what your body can do with a little bit of pushing / training / effort.
However, it can also be very intimidating to get involved initially. And unfortunately sometimes articles like this one by Chrissie can be part of the problem.
For any competitive person (me included) you are always comparing yourself to people better than you. I’m the same with my swimming as I am with my weight. I know, deep down, that I am both a much better swimmer and a much fitter person (and I can even admit to being a bit slimmer too) than I was when I started all of this three years ago. However, at every stage I am comparing myself to those that are one step ahead of me – those swimmers who are still faster than me, those blokes at the gym who are slimmer than me. The fact that it is now different people (and I am faster / slimmer than the people I was originally comparing myself to) doesn’t really register in the dark, negative recesses of my brain that seem to take over my thought patterns in times of self-doubt.
As an aside on this, I do it all the time with my swimming. If I mention swimming Windermere to people most are amazed at the feat. However all I do is compare myself to the Channel swimmers I know and think that I haven’t even done (literally) half of what they’ve achieved.
The problem then becomes that we become the people that newbies are looking up to. I can’t quite believe this emotionally, but I can accept it rationally, but there are people out there who are wishing they could swim as fast as me and are wishing they had my body shape. And yet all I do is moan that I’m not like the people over there. How disheartening must that feel to newbies?
And the answer – I don’t claim to know how to solve this for everyone, but a little bit more love wouldn’t hurt.
Love of yourself. Take Chrissie’s words to heart – it’s about what your body can do. And don’t forget to celebrate those achievements. When people tell you that a particular thing you did (sporting or otherwise) was amazing then try to believe them, try to feel amazing, even if only for a few minutes. Cos, you are amazing!
Love of our kids, friends, teammates. Tell them all how amazing they are. Don’t tell them that they look amazing, tell them that they are amazing. The looks bit isn’t important, the being bit is.
And even love of strangers / celebrities. You know what, let’s not buy the mags or click on the links that tell us about “the shocking cellulite” of an actress that plays that character who’s name we don’t even know in Emmerdale. Who cares? We shouldn’t. She shouldn’t.
And if we just try to love ourselves and everyone else a little bit more, maybe we can all be a bit less concerned with how we look.
*Right off to weigh myself to see how many calories typing this has used up!*
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