Today I’d like to address something that I haven’t discussed with many people before: body image. Not totally related to running, but still something I feel is important to discuss. It’s no secret that body image is something many of us struggle with or have struggled with in the past. And it’s not just about your body. The way we feel about our physical self affects all other aspects of our being, either for better or for worse; and often times, our attitude towards our physical self is just a manifestation of our mental or emotional state. Personally, I’ve dealt with a lot of body issues for the majority of my life. When I was in the thick of what I like to call my “lost years”, I battled with substance abuse and multiple trips to jail. It was around those years when my eating disorders were at their worst. I hurt not only myself but a lot of people around me. Every issue, every insecurity, blended into one, and it was a seemingly never-ending cycle of self destruction.
The reason I reveal that side of my story is because of who I came out as on the other side and my ability to help others going through similar struggles. (As some of you know, running is a big part of this journey.) Yes, being confident and content with who you are is an ongoing process, but being aware of the workings of our minds and the actions we take subconsciously I believe is the first step towards self-improvement and acceptance. So today (on a brighter note!) I’d like to share some of my thoughts and observations on the biggest ways we unknowingly sabotage our body positivity, so that you and I can continue to (or begin to) view ourselves in a different, more positive light.
We place our self-worth in aesthetics
Outward appearance is perhaps the last thing we should measure ourselves by, but it’s often the opposite in reality. I’m not saying to look like a slob — we should take pride in our appearance — but it should not be our sole reason for feeling confident and worthy.
As a runner, I’m constantly trying to become better, stronger, faster, but I do often find myself comparing and criticizing. When I find myself criticizing how I look, I try to change my mindset and place more importance on how I feel — where I started, how far I’ve come, and my health and ability to continue to move forward. Those things are a heck of a lot more important than what you see in the mirror.
We make self-talk our reality
Do you ever listen to the voices in your head — like really listen? I’ve recently been making an effort to be more aware — aware of my surroundings, people around me, my emotions, reasons for my actions, etc. I think our subconscious minds are always working, whether we’re aware of it in the moment or not. I’ve recently realized that the voices in my head can be really mean, dark and sometimes just not true.
The more you tell yourself something, the more you believe it, and the more it becomes your reality. If in your mind you repeatedly think you’re incapable, less than, insufficient — that’s what you’re going to be convinced of and eventually going to become. And the opposite is true. Remind yourself of everything that is positive and true — every single day — and you’ll start to believe it and live it.
We compare ourselves to other instead of embrace our uniqueness that has no rivalry
I recently bought a book by Lisa Bevere titled Without Rival: Embrace Your Identity and Purpose in an Age of Confusion and Comparison. Bevere tells us there’s a reason we look at others as rivals and limit ourselves to comparison and competition. We have an enemy assaulting our mind, will, and emotions in the hope that we’ll turn on ourselves and each other. It’s a cycle that isolates us from intimate connections, creates confusion about our identity, and limits our purpose. Below is one excerpt that I love — that reminds me to find value in what makes me truly unique — in my passions, my perspective, experiences and God-given abilities.
“God uniquely created your DNA and knit your frame in secret so he could surprise the world. He authored how your heart expresses itself; he was the architect of your smile and the melody of your voice; he made all of your features with the fondest thoughts of only you in mind. He celebrated along with your parents your first smile and watched with affection your first steps.”