Body image. Two words that can send even the strongest of us running. Literally? Literally.
They have definitely sent me running more times than I’d care to admit, but I’m admitting it now.
If you don’t know already, my husband is a personal trainer. He’s strong and committed to looking after his body, and has a passion to help others learn to do the same.
When we first met I thought his profession was SO cool. I mean, he’s fit, he’s into me, and he can write me free workouts. Win, win! 😉
But it wasn’t long until my perfectionism found a way to twist it into another way to judge myself.
I’m not a personal trainer. And while I am considerably healthier than I was five years ago, I definitely don’t look like the female personal trainers you see on Insta.
I don’t know when it started, but I began to feel insecure being out with my now husband. I convinced myself everyone I met was thinking, “why is he with her?”
I couldn’t stop myself from worrying other women were evaluating my body and questioning my husband’s choice of me.
When I actually began thinking these thoughts about myself I’d before only imagined others were thinking, the real damage hit.
Waking up everyday and seeing yourself as not good enough and unworthy doesn’t set you up to kick butt and repeat. Rather it made me want to hide underneath my quilt and just pretend I wasn’t in today.
When I looked in the mirror, I would often pinch my hips and thighs, things that to me looked “wrong” or “too big”. I’d try to smooth them out to see what I thought I should look like.
And almost every time my husband complimented me, I would negate it or find someway to invalidate what he had said.
Here’s an example …
It was New Year’s Eve. We had booked to go to this cute Afghan restaurant. Neither of us had ever tried food from Afghanistan before, and being big foodies we were really excited.
After using all my lotions and potions from Sephora, I was primped and ready. The last thing to do was to actually put on clothes, so I dug out my favourite LBD.
I stepped inside and wiggled it on, then asked Jeff to do the honours of zipping me up.
It was meant to be one of those ‘ahhhh’ movie moments. Where I feel great about how I look, my husband swoons, and somehow there’s a gentle breeze making everything all the more romantic, (see how it’s done below).
But as he zipped me up and got closer to my upper back it was getting incredibly tight. It had always been snug, (it’s figure hugging), but it just wouldn’t go all the way.
The zipper stopped just over the start of my shoulder blades.
I sank down onto the bed and just wanted to cry.
I couldn’t believe it. Here’s proof of what I thought everyone was thinking.
She’s too fat for him. She’s not beautiful enough. She can’t even fit into this dress. Why is she even trying?
In that moment I completely forgot about all the hard work I had been putting into going to the gym to build a stronger back and posterior chain, (aka pull-up training and booty building).
All I could think was that I was too fat. And all I could feel was embarrassment that my husband had seen this.
It was Jeff who made me realize it wasn’t because I was fat. That it was actually proof of my training progress. I had built more muscle and the dress just didn’t fit over my stronger back.
Of course, I didn’t believe him at first. I thought he was just being sweet and trying to make me feel better. But after the initial “oh my god” sobs died down, I realized he was right …
But even if he hadn’t been right, even if I had put on body fat and didn’t fit into the dress anymore, I can see clearer now that it doesn’t affect my worth.
Why? Because life happens. (And chocolate happens too).
This perfectionist mindset of having to be on-top form every single day is not productive. It is only exhausting. And it’s not even do-able anyway.
What I learnt from this is to take a few minutes to let those emotions show themselves.
Let the “oh my goodness, I can’t believe how big my thighs look in that picture” sadness come and feel it. Let the disappointment and self-judgement show themselves.
But … don’t let them stick around!
- Believe that the size of your thighs [or whatever body part is getting you down] doesn’t determine your worth.
- Recognise that talking badly to yourself isn’t going to change how you feel or the size of your thighs.
- Realise your body is strong and deserves to be looked after.
- Remember you can always shape and strengthen your body with training if you want to.
Sometimes we need to feel these horrible emotions before we can be more rational and remember these four points. Because otherwise it doesn’t really change our mindsets.
We just sugar coat it and pretend we have dealt with it. But then it rears its ugly head again fairly soon after.
Another way I have found to fight this mentality is through two words: “thank you”.
When your partner compliments you and you just can’t see what the heck they’re talking about, try to say thank you anyway.
Or when a friend tells you how great those jeans look on you, instead of negating their comment with a list of “imperfections”, just say thank you.
Doing this not only shows your loved ones you heard them, you value their opinions and compliments, but I’ve found it is the beginning of instilling the belief that you are enough.
In the end I may never look like an Insta fitness model.
But even if I did, my worth doesn’t depend on my body shape or what other people think my physique should be like.
And neither does yours.
Plus, I’m pretty sure what we think people are thinking about, they’re not even thinking anyway.
And if they are, then screw them.