I am my own worst critic. I always have been. And as I’ve grown, I realize it’s not just me. We are really hard on ourselves. Which leads me to ask the question, Why? “Beauty”… meaning what society considers beautiful has changed it’s face so drastically over time. But how, and why? Have you sat back and admired real, classic art? Women were portrayed so very differently then. In truth, their forms were much more realistic. They were not Sir Mixalot’s measurements of 36-24-36, nor did these classic beauties look like a Victoria’s Secret Runway model looks today. They were soft. They had curvy, soft lines. They had ample bosoms, thicker, softer middles, lower tummy “mommy pooch”, and definitely more cushy bottoms. By today’s standards these art forms, at one time considered the epitome of beauty, in today’s society don’t hold a torch to Beyonce (however much we love her). As women we have such a skewed sense of beauty, all we do is compare ourselves.
I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but I started comparing myself to everyone else almost as early as I can remember. I, having a twin sister compared myself to her naturally. I was always the heavy set one. As a matter of fact, as kids, I was always the heaviest set one in the family. Even as a baby, I was significantly chubbier than my twin sister. Then, growing up, the trend continued, and lets be honest, kids are cruel. I think back and wonder how I got that way. I didn’t feel like I ate more than her or my cousins. As a matter of fact, we struggled hard financially, and some nights, we barely ate at all. I do remember not eating the most nutritious food. Sadly, whole foods are more costly than junk, processed foods. But my mother did the best she could. I do know I liked food. By the time I was in middle school, I had taken to wearing baggy clothes, which were in style at the time (which in reality, even at my size now, I still wear).
By the time high school rolled around I was more self conscious about my weight, especially considering my sister was several sizes smaller. Often I barely ate, and when I did, it was total junk. I yoyo-ed in weight, and I found when I was losing it, it was always through binges of not eating. This became comfortable. As everything does however, the weight always came back. By the time graduation happened I enlisted in the Marines. But according to their “standards” I was over weight. Now, might I just say that going in to Marine Corps, boot camp is hard enough, but going in as a WEIGHT recruit?! It’s like walking around boot camp with a neon sign. Everyone is issued the same dark green uniform T-shirts to wear under cammies, and for PT. Weight Recruits have two giant white stripes painted across their shirts, so everyone knows they are over weight. When everyone else has normal chow, weight recruits get a “diet” tray…which you have to yell out and ask for. Every recruit, Drill Instructor, Officer, EVERYONE knows you are over your weight limit just by looking at you. Embarrassing? Yes. I had a drill Instructor pull me up in front of a platoon of 60 women, made me stand in front of a mirror, and say, “Spalding, you see all this fat on you? We are going to work it off” and she proceeded to work me out, until I thought I’d vomit. Not to mention that I was so embarrassed and ashamed I wanted to crawl into a hole and die.
When I got out of the Marines, I wanted to model. But living up to Florida industry standards, even at my smallest, I never once walked into an agency without them telling me I had to lose weight. So, I did everything to try and lose weight. I tried every diet pill, starvation, laxatives, working out on no food. I would even chew food up to get the taste in my mouth only to spit it into a napkin. I was killing myself thinking I was closer to attaining what the industry thought was beautiful. It wasn’t until I found dance, that I started getting healthy. I started training in a gym, and realized I had so much work to do. But honestly the work was even more emotional and mental than physical. We all have our insecurities. If I had a dollar for the amount of women I have counseled and trained over the years that when they first start can not even stand to look at themselves in the mirror, I would be a millionaire. I know that feeling. Even at my current size, 15% body fat, I still look in the mirror and start to pick myself apart. I don’t like shirts that are form fitting to my stomach. I have a few dimples in my butt and thighs. But I, at this place in my life, am strong enough to remind myself although I have those things, my thighs and butt are also thick with muscle.
At what place in our lives did we learn as women to constantly compare ourselves to others? And why can’t we stop? How did our view of ourselves become so skewed? What I’ve learned is fitness is not just a daily battle, but self love as well. I preach self love to my clients, but I have to remind myself all the time. The good news is there is a light at the end of this tunnel. It takes one single step to start the journey of truly loving oneself on the outside and in. But you have to be willing to take the first step. And then the next step, and the step after that. You can succeed at anything as long as you keep pressing forward. I can proudly say, my personal journey has taken me a long way. I have been blessed enough to help women who at one time couldn’t stand to look at themselves in the mirror, to them not only looking at themselves but truly loving themselves…But they took the step on the journey, and they followed through. Change is never easy. But sometimes you’ll be amazed at what change can lead to. Love yourself enough to take the first step. No matter what that step is in life. You are worth it. You are enough. Someone else sees it inside you, even if sometimes we don’t see it in ourselves.