One of my favorite things to do when I am out somewhere like a coffee shop, restaurant or my personal favorite, the airport, is people watch. People are so interesting to me for a lot of reasons but especially because we come in such a variety of shapes, sizes colors and features. It always strikes me how we can be so similar in some very basic ways yet so different in a lot of others. Besides our physical features, we all tend to have our own sense of style, taste, and personal preferences when it comes to things like food, clothing, music, movies, books, etc. These differences are what makes us well, us. They also make us unique and, in my opinion, our uniqueness is what makes us interesting. Wouldn’t it be boring if we all liked the same things, all looked alike, and in turn had nothing new or unique to contribute to the world? I think it would be at least!
I wanted to write this post because I think all too often these days we are bombarded with people on TV, in movies, and on particularly on social media that present themselves and their lives as perfect. They appear to have the perfect bodies. The perfect house. The perfect kids, or perfect dog and always seem to be vacationing at the most perfect spots. And of course, they are always wearing all the latest and most perfectest (I just made that word up) fashion. What you need to be careful about when seeing these images is believing it’s all real. You guys, no one is perfect. The people you see on TV and in the movies work very hard, usually with expensive personal trainers and sometimes even plastic surgeons for the looks they have. They sit for hours in hair and makeup and are dressed by all the best stylists. And social media really isn’t any different. Just about every picture you see posted these days has been filtered or altered in some way and your favorite influences take dozens if not hundreds to thousands of shots even before they get that one that they finally end up posting (again usually after editing the heck out of it!). Now I am not saying some people are not just more genetically blessed than others. There are just those people out there that are naturally beautiful or thin or have eyebrows you would kill for but a lot of what is presented to the world just isn’t the full story. In my experience, there is always a story behind the story.
It took me A LOT of years to accept and embrace my own body and all things about it that make me unique. In fact, I have gotten teased plenty over the years for the way I look. My skin is pale, I have a lot of freckles and probably most tease-worthy is I am kinda shaped like a 13-year-old boy. You know, pretty straight up and down. No curves. My shoulders are a bit broad from all the years of competitively swimming. Not a whole lot going on in the hip department. In fact, I am going to share something that probably should be super embarrassing right now just to prove my point. I needed to go buy a pair of khakis for a work event I was scheduled to attend a few weeks back. I tried on several brands, a few different cuts and a handful of sizes and just could not find anything that would fit me. My friend who was with me at the time suggested that I try on a boys size pant as a last resort. Low and behold they fit like a glove and I ended up getting that pair. I swore my friend to secrecy about having to buy a boys cut pant but honestly, I found the whole thing kinda funny in the end and here I am sharing it with all of you! After all, if you can’t laugh at yourself, right??? 😊
I tell you this because even though my body is far from perfect and not at all like what seems to be the standard of beauty these days (you know curvy with a butt like Kim Kardashian’s) I am FINALLY at the point in my life where I really do love it. I really am in awe of how it has responded over the past year to the diet changes I have made and the effort I am putting in with the exercise programs I have been following. There are still things about myself I wish were different. I wish I did have more curves. I wish my hair was thicker. I wish I was stronger, faster, and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Okay maybe not that last thing, but you get my point. Some of the things I would like to change about myself I probably can with enough hard work and commitment. Other things though, I have no control over. Things like my body shape and hair type that are just built into my DNA I can’t do a thing about it. And you know what, that is ok!! What I have been reflecting on recently is that since I started on this health and wellness journey of mine, I am far less focused on the things I don’t like and much more appreciative of the things about myself that I do like.
I am almost 40 you guys and probably in the best shape of my life. I feel better than I have in years, am happier, more confident and just generally a better all-around person. Why? Because I decided to pull myself out of my body-hating funk, work on the things that were bothering me and then accept and even embrace all the rest. Fast forward to today and I am finally at peace with myself and my body and OMG what am amazing feeling that is. I had been in a battle with my body for years. My body image was tied to a number on the scale for the longest time and I think when I let that go so much negativity went with it. I no longer want to be skinny. I want to be strong. I no longer want to fit into a size zero jean. I want to be healthy. I no longer cringe when I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I stand proudly in front of my reflection because I know all the hard work I have been putting in is paying off. And while I am still not and never will be perfect, I am happy.
So what are some healthy ways to celebrate all that is YOU? Well here are a few of my recommendations:
- Stop comparing!!! I said it before and I’ll say it again…NO ONE IS YOU! You are special. You are unique. You have something valuable to contribute to the world that no one else has. Find that gift by looking inward not outward to others at what they are doing, what they look like or what they have in life. Comparison will steal your joy and greatly affect your self-esteem if you let it. My advice: Instead of looking to others to see what the standard of beauty is look within yourself and focus on what makes you beautiful!
- Write a list of things you like about yourself. Or maybe try naming one thing a day you appreciate about yourself. It could be you really liked the outfit you put together today. Or you did a great job on that project you had been working hard on. Or you really like the color of your eyes. Just take a minute to consciously think about one thing a day you appreciate about yourself.
- Take perfection off the table. No one is perfect. Literally no one. Instead of perfection, lets strive to be the best versions of ourselves possible. Take the pressure of perfection off the table. Instead, let just embrace the fact that we all have strengths and weakness. Thing we can teach others and things we can learn from others. Lets just be kind, understanding and tolerant human beings both of other people and of ourselves!
- Do small things to boost your confidence. For instance, I always feel so much more put together when my nails look nice. Getting a manicure every so often is something I treat myself to because it just makes me feel better and gives me a little extra confidence. Maybe for you it is getting your hair done or doing your makeup in a certain way. Heck, maybe you feel best when you have no makeup on at all (I would love to be one of these people but I need my mascara!!). Whatever it is for you, build a little time and energy into your schedule for that all-important self-care.
- Never stop learning and growing! Read books. Learn a new language. Pick up a new hobby. Do something that you can focus positive energy into and feel good about yourself when you have completed it. It seems silly but every time I finish a book I am I feel a little proud of myself. I think just because I put the effort into reading instead of mindlessly scrolling through Instagram has something to do with it, but also because I know I probably learned something new or gained a fresh perspective on the world in doing so. It just makes me feel good about myself so I have started to make a real effort to disconnect from my devices and read several times a week. Find something that fulfills you and again make sure you carve out time in your schedule to pursue it.
- Don’t dwell on mistakes/setbacks. Perfect example of this in my world… I ate a lot this past weekend and didn’t work out nearly as much as I had planned to. The old me would have spent days maybe even a week dwelling on how I let myself down and obsessing over the 100lbs I felt like I put on (when in reality I probably gained nothing at all). The new me says, wow I really needed to give my body a break this weekend and let it recharge and recover. I know that with the new week I will be right back on track with my fitness and nutrition goals. It is perfectly ok to take a step back. Have an off day. Just take a break. All that matters is that you rest, not quit!
I think to truly be happy with ourselves we have to embrace how we were made…flaws, imperfections, freckles, boyish figures and all. Now if you want to be a healthier version of yourself…great! If you want to lose some weight…great! Set some realistic goals, take small steps towards those goals every day and don’t let anyone or anything get in the way of achieving them. You can look to others for inspiration and even guidance but always keep in mind that your story is different than theirs. Your journey will look different, feel different and take you down different paths than theirs. You will encounter different obstacles, experience different highs, different lows and have different outcomes then they will. Embrace these differences, let the world know you are proud of them and always keep in mind that no one is you and that is truly something to celebrate!