Body Image (dun dun dunnn)
This is not another “every body is beautiful and you should love yourself and yada yada yada” post. Because a.) Duh and b.) I’m tired of them, like they have seriously been exhausted at this point and because c.) Someone telling you that you should love your body unfortunately has pretty much zero impact if you have body image issues.
If I’m going out on the town and I’m happy with my outfit and my makeup is on point and I’m feeling super confident, then someone complimenting my appearance will feel like a positive affirmation of what I already feel. But if I feel like a garbage pail kid and someone tries to tell me otherwise, it goes absolutely in one ear and out the other. Or I genuinely think they are a liar. Or they have astigmatism.
It’s wonderful when my boyfriend tells me that I look beautiful, or that I am in great shape, but I have to feel it on the inside for it to truly mean anything to me. I have to believe him. So if other people tell you that your body is a beautiful wonderful marvel, and that doesn’t work to build up your self-esteem, then what the hell does?
For me, personally, I have noticed a shift in my perceptions of myself since starting a fitness Instagram and following other like-minded individuals. Hear me out, okay, it’s not as crazy as it sounds. One of the things I have always been self-conscious of are my muscles. I have had definition in my body since I was young, and people often made fun of me and asked me why I had man arms, why I was “buff”, etc. When kids make fun of you for something when you are young, it can stick with you for a long time. Even with Michelle Obama’s arms trending on twitter, it wasn’t enough to shift my thinking of myself. For a long time, as an adult, I hated the way that my arms looked in pictures. I felt like a girl with Hulk Hogan’s arms photo shopped onto my body.
Even when I started my fitness account and got into lifting, I would post pictures where I didn’t look too muscular for fear of people thinking that my body looked unfeminine. But the more and more I journeyed into the fitstagram community, and the more diverse accounts I started to follow, the more I realized that my body type was a.) normal, b.) strong, c.) badass, d.) beautiful, and e.) more common than I believed. Seeing other women so proudly showcasing their muscles that they have worked tirelessly to build and strengthen made me more proud of my own work in the gym.
This certainly wasn’t a shift that happened over night. I didn’t stumble upon one girl’s fitness account and immediately decide to accept myself. It has happened slowly over the course of a year or two, as I follow more and more women of all shapes and sizes, who are all connected by their love of exercising and taking care of their bodies. I follow women who have been on long weight loss journeys, women who do yoga, women who are skinny and actively trying to build muscle mass, and even competitive body builders. Because seeing images of all of these women every single day normalizes them, and makes me feel normal in return. Sure, there are days when I’m feeling down and venturing onto social media might only make me feel worse. But with the crew of wonderful strangers I have recruited to join me on my feed, I usually see countless posts about other people feeling the same way. People who struggle with bad days. People who once felt the way I did. People who feel confident about their muscles and are not going to feel ashamed of it, no matter what you comment on their pictures, trolls. People who make me feel like my muscles are not only attractive and desirable, but an accomplishment and something to be proud of.
Social media can have the opposite effect, of course. If being a size 16 is something that you happen to be self-conscious about, then only following accounts of stick-thin models will probably mess with your head. Or perhaps you are in the opposite situation. Either way, find some people who look like you, along with those who don’t. Mix it up. People who have been or are where you are. Engage with people who you relate to. I promise it will feel better than only looking at pictures of unattainable, glossy, celebrity posts (although there is room for those too, don’t get me wrong). You have access to a worldwide community of people who might think, talk, dress, look, and sound like you at your fingertips. Or people who are totally different from you, but struggling with the same thing. Use it to your advantage! Show yourself just how normal and wonderful and accepted you are, and maybe you will start to feel that way about yourself.