Sharing this image with this post put a feeling of fear in my gut. It was taken as part of an impromptu photoshoot on a rooftop in Bangkok. (Yes, I am still completely covered in the front despite what it looks like!) I absolutely love it! Everything about how it happened to how it turned out. To me, it’s art. But I thought about the reaction it might get. “Will I be judged? Is it too much?” The answer to that question for some of you is probably “yes.” I’m sharing it anyway…Not as a cry for attention but in hopes that seeing another human taking a step out to love herself and the beauty of the human body will help others see the beauty in themselves and others.
We are not our bodies. But our bodies are not the enemy.
I’m not trying to be confusing or philosophical. As I’m transitioning to a career in fitness and also on a path to greater self-acceptance, I’ve been thinking a lot about the body, what it means to me and the perception of the physical body in society.
Throughout most of my life, I’ve viewed my body like it was the enemy and my “healthy lifestyle” was the war. I was angry at my body for not responding properly to all the exercise I was doing and all the “bad food” I was not eating. “I should be skinny,” I always thought to myself. “Does this body not realize everything I’m doing for it?” I was angry not only at my body but also at myself for my failures. I was a martyr, sacrificing daily for this ungrateful, unresponsive body.
Slowly, as I began to take up bodybuilding and saw how diet and training allow us to shape the body, things began to shift. As I finished my first competition, I immediately shifted focus to the second and getting my WBFF pro card. Soon, I was gearing up for training twice a day and a crazy-strict diet for a show that was months away. Every morning I would wake up and take progress photos, my entire self-worth determined by whether or not I was feeling “fluffy” that day. At that point, the body was no longer the enemy. It was my identity.
Now that I am a fitness professional, this brings a whole new perspective to how I view my body. I work in an industry in which the body is a billboard. The industry consists of two extremes. At one end, there are those who believe that showing your body to the world is part of the job and the way to make it in the industry. The more skin, the more ab shots, the more gym selfies – the better. Then there is the second group. These people are anti-selfie and focus 100 percent on sharing hardcore training tips and the science behind it all. There are many who fall somewhere in the middle. I do not believe either opinion is bad. What I do believe is that it’s important to know where I stand on this continuum.
Whether you are a personal trainer, or someone who is also struggling to come to peace with your body image, I challenge you to look at how your view your body and how your self-worth and identity may be tied to it. We spend every day inside our bodies. The least we can do is determine what kind of relationship we want to have with it. By no means am I telling you what to believe, but I will share my own personal beliefs in hopes that it will give you some food for thought.
After much reflection, here is what I believe about the human body:
The body is a tool.
We are not our body, but the body is here to help us move through and experience life. If we take good care of this body, it can run like a brand new Ferrari. If we treat it poorly, it will be in the shop often or move through life at the pace of a Fred Flintstone car. You are not your body, but your body is critical to living, experiencing and enjoying life. Treat it with kindness, fuel it properly and it will reciprocate.
The body is a mirror.
I believe that if we are in a good place on the inside, our bodies will reflect this energy. Our energy radiates from the inside out. To be beautiful, believe you are beautiful. To be strong and masculine, believe you have this energy inside of you. Reflect these emotions to the external world, and your body will change with your internal state. It all starts with deciding to live in a beautiful, peaceful, positive, self-loving, non-egotistical state.
The body is art.
Often times we look at the fitness industry, particularly the bodybuilding world, like it’s full of half-crazy, self-obsessed people. And, yes, those things can be true. However, what I’ve found is that these half-crazy bodybuilders can be more like artists and scientists. I’ve learned an important lesson from bodybuilding – our bodies are art. I used to look at pictures of models in magazines with envy believing they were somehow granted magical powers and that could never be me. “It’s not fair,” I would think. “I can’t have that.” Bodybuilding has taught me that if we focus our effort and energy, in this case our bodies, we can create what we envision. It may not be exactly what we see in a magazine if we’re choosing an all-natural, non-photoshop approach, but it will be beautiful because it’s our creation, marked with our own signature and struggles.
As I grow my new business, I will share images of my own body (like the one accompanying this blog post.) I share in hopes that seeing another human appreciating her body will help others see the beauty in themselves and others. I will never have the perfect body. Perfection is not the goal. Perfection is the lowest human standard. Let’s appreciate the bodies we were blessed with while striving to be the healthiest versions of ourselves.
Let’s also respect and recognize the beauty of the bodies of others by practicing non-judgment. Whether it’s looking in the mirror, looking at social media or in everyday life and whether we are looking a body covered in frumpy clothing or half-naked, let’s appreciate the beauty of the human body as artistic expression of the journey through life. The bodies are art. Art is all about valuing the differences and the imperfections.
The body is physical representation of something much bigger – YOU! Let’s be a society that honors, uses, appreciates, admires, creates and loves our bodies rather than a society that is obsessed, abusive, judgmental and ashamed of our bodies. Let’s see our bodies for what they are – not our identity or the enemy but tools, mirrors and art. Let’s spend our energy building from the inside out. Nourish your body, respect your body and believe anything is possible. Your body will respond.