We are continuing with our Core Value Series where we’re diving a bit deeper into each core value of Worth the Work Fitness in order to help you get to know us better, and to help encourage you towards a healthier mindset with your health and wellness journey. Each week we are sharing one of our nine core values that are a part of the foundation of why we do what we do, and expanding on why each one is so significant to us and why we believe each can be significant to you as well.
In our last post we briefly touched on how playing the comparison game when it comes to our health and wellness journeys can be detrimental to our forward progress. Today we’ll be expanding further on this comparison topic by chatting through the different standards we compare our bodies to, and how we can shift to a healthier approach.
We want to help you focus on being the best version of your current self. We’re not working to get the bodies we had in high school or the bodies we see in magazines. We want to avoid comparing ourselves to anyone else (even our former selves) because we know that all of our bodies are different. The perfect body is the healthiest version of the one you currently have.
The Perfect Body
How would you define the perfect body? Whether you are male or female, there’s probably a picture in your mind of ideal features that you are either working towards or wish you had. You might even have a particular person in mind that encapsulates every feature you’ve ever wanted. But here’s the thing, while there are certainly overlapping opinions about the perfect body type for men and women, we can guess that if you were to ask even 10 different people how they would define it, you’d get a variety of answers.
There are a lot of deep rooted attachments in our minds to what we consider to be the ideal body type, but without getting into the psychology behind it all, we’d just like to point out that despite what we often fall prey to believing, there is no one version of a perfect body. To exemplify that, here is an article from a few years ago that shows the differences between the “ideal” female body between different countries around the world, and here is another article from a couple years ago that focuses on the “perfect” female body throughout American history. Both articles show the blatant proof that the so-called perfect body is elusive. Talk about a confusing standard to follow. Add into the mix the edited or photoshopped images in magazines or on the internet that present a false sense of reality, and the confusion sinks even deeper. And yet, even when we acknowledge the unrealistic nature of the standards placed on both men and women, we often still strive to look like someone else - whether consciously or unconsciously. And oftentimes, we even strive to look like another version of our own selves.
Our Former Selves
We can’t tell you how many past clients we’ve worked with that hyper focus on the ‘once upon a time’. How back in high school, back in college, just a few years ago, they were in great shape, but then [fill in the blank] happened. And the guilt of letting that body go, or those habits go, lingers over them and is shaming them into efforts to try to get back to what they once had so they don’t have to keep living with that feeling of failure. Once again, there’s plenty of psychology that plays into this, so without diving too deep in the weeds, we just want to point out that you are not who you used to be. And that is ok. In fact, it’s more than ok. However long ago the body you might compare yourself to existed, you’ve grown and matured and adapted with life since then - emotionally, mentally, and physically. There very well may be aspects of yourself you aren’t entirely happy with (which is normal, because there’s always more room for us to grow in life), but you have to be careful how you let any discontentment affect your motivation.
Another thing to keep in mind when we think back on the glory days is that we’re likely going to end up competing with versions of ourselves in an unfair match. It's a scientific fact that our bodies change as we age. So we have to shift our expectations of what it takes for us to live healthily now in comparison to what it did back then - whenever ‘then’ may be.
The Overarching Problem
As a whole, this comparative way of thinking can set us up for unhealthy relationships with our bodies. We poke and prod and wish they were different. We speak negatively about them, either to ourselves or in front of others. We grow insecure about the features that noticeably stand out to us (that may or may not even stand out to others). We hyperfocus on the things we want to change and risk following drastic measures to achieve them (i.e. overexercising, crash diets, eating disorders, plastic surgery/botox). We can become critical of not just ourselves, but of others as well, tearing them down so we can build ourselves up to feel even just a little bit better. We can fool ourselves into thinking that once we get that body we’ve been dreaming of, or we get back to the body we once had, THEN we will be happy. But this way of thinking is not only risky for our bodies, but also for our mental, emotional, and relational health. There’s got to be a better approach. A better way. A healthier way.
The Better Perfect Body
So now, instead of dreaming about your idea of a perfect body, we want you to take a good look at the body you have at this very moment. Go on, take a look in the mirror right now. Take it all in. There might be parts of it that you are not happy to see. And it’s ultimately ok to want to make changes. But instead of letting those self proclaimed “problem areas” rule your decisions or feelings, we want your motivation to come from a place of freedom to live healthily. From a place of appreciation for the good things your body can do and has done. From a place of acceptance that you are uniquely beautiful and strong already, because you are more than just your body.
Now take a look down at your feet. Think of where these feet have taken you. What they’ve carried you through. You can’t change what steps you took to get where you are now (good or bad). All you can control now is the effort you make going forward from here. You can choose to either let the guilt keep you stagnant or on a downward spiral, or you can choose to step forward in freedom towards sustainable health.
That’s what we try to focus on at Worth the Work Fitness. We don’t want to feed into the insecurities and tell you simply how to try to fix them, tweak them, and change them. We want to lead you into whole health - the kind that focuses on taking care of the body you have, not just trying to “fix” it; the kind that focuses on treating yourself with respect, rather than shaming your body into something it’s not; the kind that focuses not just on physical health, but also mental, emotional, and relational health that goes beyond this current season of life, and carries on with you in all the seasons to come.
It’s okay to be inspired by someone - including your former self. But if that inspiration turns into anything other than motivation - anything like guilt, shame, regret, obsession - then it’s time for a heart check. It’s time to refocus on your big picture ‘why’.
So let’s ditch that comparison of our former selves. Let’s ditch measuring ourselves against every other body. Let’s ditch the goals of trying to look like X, Y, or Z. And let’s embrace the fact that a perfect body is just the healthiest version of the bodies we already have. Let’s figure out what is healthy for each of us individually right now. We promise when you do that, there is much greater health to come.
Written by Kelly Pruim with Brett Henderson