I work out. Yes, I do. And I don’t love it, but I’ve learned not to hate it. It’s hell when I’m actually in class, feeling like a failing stripper-in-training as I pulse my hips to the sky until my muscles literally give out. But I can’t deny that I always feel better afterwards, and if I do it early enough in the morning, I can forget it ever happened until I have to do it again.
At Physique 57 the other day, frustrated with myself once again for glancing over at the woman next to me once every thirty seconds to make sure I was keeping up, I had a major epiphany. As much as we want to be “skinny” and “in great shape” and “healthy,” I don’t know that we ever give ourselves the opportunities to be truly satisfied with how we look and feel.
Think about it. Remember the last time you left the house while your hair was miraculously behaving itself, and how great your curves felt in the new dress you decided to debut that day? You felt on top of the world, like no one could stop you, like those construction workers on the corner would have too much respect for you to whistle, but would be forced to bow down and revere the goddess that is you. NOTHING could burst your bubble.
Now remember what burst your bubble. What was it that knocked you off your cloud of hotness? I will bet that 85% of the time (that’s definitely a scientific statistic), it was merely seeing another woman who you thought looked better than you. You saw her coming down the block, with her perfectly effortless style and her chic heels (who can wear heels all day??), and you instantly curse yourself for not wearing the wedges that give you blisters but make your calves look great instead of the flats that are more comfortable yet have seen way better days. In an instant, all of your confidence disappears like a guy in my 20s after a one night stand, and you deflate like a sad balloon.
I mean, I defined “competitive” in high school. If there was a musical, I auditioned for the lead. If there was a cheerleading squad, I wanted to be captain. If there was a student government, I wanted to be secretary (I’ve always loved office supplies). I graduated 30th in my class of 425 mainly because I couldn’t stand when my intensely smart boyfriend got better grades than me. High school offers endless opportunity to exercise the competitive streak that we are born with.
But as we get older, those opportunities dwindle. So we naturally start to compete with each other and compare ourselves to the other women at the gym, and strangers on the street, and even our own best friends. Without a field hockey game to throw your competitive energy into, it has to go somewhere, and unfortunately, our self esteem can take a major hit because of it. Being the best at being skinny is not the same as being the star of the Debate Team.
I have a friend who has been unhappy with her weight for years now. It always pains me to see how frustrated she gets with her body, because when I look at her, all I see is beauty and grace and loyalty. She is an exceptional mother, in fantastic shape because she loves running, and one of the most thoughtful friends I have. She is sexy and funny and smart, and her boss would have a very difficult time running his charity without her. She is an inspiration to me and to everyone else who meets her. But when she looks in the mirror, she doesn’t always see those tremendous qualities.
But think of it this way: There will always be someone skinnier than you. Always. BUT there will also always be someone wishing they had your body instead of their own. So why not just remove ourselves from the equation and (gasp) put all of that energy into appreciating our own bodies? Our small boobs, our big butts, our freckles, our thin hair, our huge boobs, our flat butts, our wildly uncontrollable hair. Keep working out and making healthy decisions, but do it because it feels good, not because you want to look like the girl on the spin bike next to you. Because she probably wants to look like the girl in front of her.
We are more than our body types. We are brains, and kindness, and creativity, and positivity, and wisdom, and mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts and friends. We are extraordinary beings, no matter what shape we are.
So next time you realize that you’re comparing yourself to another woman, smile at her instead. Acknowledge her beauty and her health. And then, compliment yourself on being a bad ass in so many ways, and continue on your confident way as if the sidewalk is a catwalk. And make those construction workers speechless with your gorgeous glow and your fearlessness.