Where does this body-size-related self-image come from? Why is “thin in”? Male movie stars of many decades ago did not have the physiques they do today, with the exception of whichever actor was playing Tarzan at the time. A chiseled body on a man was an anomaly in the 1930’s, ‘40s, ‘50s and even ‘60s.
Nowadays, a man with the body of Humphrey Bogart won’t get too far on the big screen. As for the women, standards haven’t changed: Waist sizes in today’s starlets are just as small as they were many decades ago.
But we didn’t hear of body image disorders back then. Today, seems that’s all we hear about. What’s going on?
Well, the fame of fashion models may have something to do with it, plus all the magazines and Internet space devoted to “who’s wearing what” in the entertainment world, plus the skimpy and seductive outfits that today’s female recording artists wear. Self-worth for many young people—even not so young (a la Demi Moore), is tied to physical appearance.
So here’s that little secret:
Rather than focus on what your body looks like, focus on what it can do.
This small shift in thinking will produce magnificent results.
At age 12, Cheryl Haworth weighed 240 pounds. By age 17 and standing almost 5-10, Cheryl weighed just over 300 pounds. These measurements are enough to sink the spirit of any growing girl and demolish her with never-ending self-hatred.
However, Cheryl didn’t worry about what she looked like. Instead she focused on what her enormous body could do. She played softball, and this one day (when she was 12) led her to a gym where the sights and sounds of weight lifting mesmerized her. She was hooked. At age 17 she took the bronze medal at the Sydney Olympics in weight lifting.
This doesn’t mean that the cure for any individual with a self-image problem is to perform weight lifting at Olympic level caliber. But you get the point. Set performance-related goals, such as:
• Bench press 100 pounds (women); 175 pounds (men)
• Get through a step aerobics class without having to sit out and rest
• Run 12 mph on the treadmill for one minute—without holding on
• Master inline skating
• Complete an indoor climbing route rated at least 5.10
• Earn a green belt, then purple belt, then black belt in karate
There are endless “what your body can do” goals that you can devise. When you begin concentrating on effort and performance, the vanity aspect fades into the background. If you’re distraught over your thunder thighs, imagine how proud of them you’ll be when they can complete a five-mile hilly hike with ease.
If you’re distressed over a receding hairline, guys, it won’t matter so much when you realize your bench press is progressing like a demon.
We’d all like to change something about our body that we have little or no control over. Every women would love to zap away all the hair follicles on her legs so she never has to shave again. Many men would like to be taller.
Rather than stew over that which we cannot change, let’s expend energy on changing what we can change: stamina, strength, fitness and health. Don’t get caught up with “body types.” Instead, get caught up with body strength, body endurance and body fitness.
Eat healthful foods not because you want to look like a Victoria’s Secret model, but because you want to slash your risk of breast cancer and be around to see your grandkids grow up.
It’s always the right time to improve your self-image, no matter where you’re at on the continuum. For more assistance in getting on the path to loving yourself more, sign up for a free 30 minute call.