This is a hard one to post. I don’t like focusing on my physical appearance. When I exercise, I do it for the feeling. I’ve said it so often I should have shirts made, but honestly, if you feel good you look good. Not the other way around.
That said, I am human. I have days when I’m not thrilled with what I see. More often I see someone who, in my eyes, is the epitome of strength and beauty and I don’t measure up. We all do it. I had one of these days last Wednesday. The critic in me usually makes an appearance when I’m exhausted and struggling to keep up with the daily grind. My husband had just left for a week-long trip to Chicago that coincided with Parent-Teacher conferences, history presentations at school, Valentine’s day, birthday parties… you get the idea.
I’d just finished teaching a Total Body Conditioning class when a new member approached me to tell me how much she enjoyed the class. She then apologized for not being as strong as others and hoped she could look like me one day. Whoa! Wait a second! First off, everyone is new at one point. I needed her to know she showed strength simply by showing up to do the work. If she kept that up, she’d be stronger than she could imagine. Second, while I was flattered, didn’t she realize my body wasn’t perfect? Of course she did, but she didn’t dwell on the imperfections I was dwelling on. She just saw a fit girl. She was admiring the very body I was feeling down about in the moment. Her words snapped me out of my funk and back to reality.
I’m not fishing for compliments and I certainly don’t want to be a whiner. My point for writing this is to remind us (okay, mostly me) that perfection doesn’t exist. While I was wishing to have someone else’s strength, someone was wishing to have mine. Frankly, it’s a waste of time to pine for what someone else has. That time is better spent improving what I have. Accepting who we are doesn’t mean settling. It simply means we stop wasting energy chasing someone else’s dream. We focus on our own growth.
Too often I find myself looking at others feeling like they have it all pulled together. Everything looks so easy to them. They don’t have the struggles I have. They don’t have to work hard to stay fit. But of course they do! And of course they struggle. Of course they don’t have it all pulled together! But what struck me most that Wednesday is that others may be looking at me thinking I have it all together!
I’m here to tell you that, yes, some days I’m feeling pretty good about myself. Overall I’m pleased with how I feel and how I look. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished in running and I own the work I put into my classes. If I expect members to show up and give me their best, I have to be willing to give my best, too. I’m not going to shrug that off. But there are occasions when it’s just a victory to roll out of bed and show up.
I’m posting these pics of my stomach just as an example. It is what it is. They’re not bad. They’re not ideal. They just are. One pic is of my stomach in a normal standing state. The other is what I see every time I’m in downward dog or tabletop position when I practice yoga. This is a vast improvement from a few years ago when my core was much weaker, but this is where I’ve landed. I’m putting it out there to show you that none of us is perfect. Okay, maybe someone is, but that someone isn’t me.
When I tell people to be open to change and not to expect the changes to be the same as their neighbors’, I mean it. And I’m usually talking to me. My fitness journey is mine, and mine alone. If we can learn to stop measuring our progress by someone else’s measuring stick, we will find true freedom. If we can see ourselves the way others see us, we will find peace. If we can accept who we are and revel in our strengths, we will find joy. And joy lasts longer than a six-pack. It’s about progress, not perfection.