So this is a topic that I know is going to stir up some strong opinions, and you may strongly disagree with me and that is ok! In fact if you do that’s great because that’s the start of a discussion and I would love to hear your input! So if you have a point you want to get across feel free to get in touch with me!
So body image is something that I know many of us struggle with, and I say us because I also struggle with body image, believe it or not, in body building body dysmorphia is rife, I’d go as far as to say that dysmorphia is probably at the core of the sport and made worse by it. Many of us are driven by a desire to be better and push ourselves to a limit, to be the best possible version of ourselves and this sometimes stems from the fact we are never “big” enough “ripped” enough, because of how we see ourselves. Hell in the sport the use of illegal steroids and performance enhancing drugs are rampant because of this desire to achieve a “perfect” physique that doesn’t exist. Why doesn’t it exist? Simple, because no matter how much we progress or achieve it will never be good enough, in our eyes.
This is made even worse by the fact we subject ourselves to the opinion of judges on stage, who if we lose, because nothing short of first is acceptable to many, affirms our worst fear, that our bodies aren’t good enough, and thus a vicious cycle begins, of comparing yourself to your competition, who you will always see as bigger, more aesthetic and more shredded than you, even if perhaps they aren’t.
And thus your perception begins to become your reality.
I bring up body building or at least what my experience of body building, because you can transfer many of the same pressures present there, to those of most people in everyday walks of life, we are always comparing ourselves to those around us and the ideals that the media presents us with, wether for a bloke it being the “thor” physique in a marvel film, or a fragrance ad showing a man in “peak” getting attention from women, or for the ladies constantly being shown airbrushed models on social media, with the best lighting and angels highlighting what for most will be an unachievable physique. Is it no wonder then that people have started taking drastic measures to achieve an impossible ideal that we will NEVER be happy with?
Social media has a lot to answer for as it has poured fuel on the fire, putting all these pressures even more in out face. You can’t go on Instagram without being bombarded with “influencer” models promoting USELESS skinny teas/coffees or weight loss shakes (that they don’t actually take themselves) or showing off a cosmetic company responsible for their lips/teeth/ and smooth skin or worse yet illegal fat burners (with serious health risks) and tanners, that make young women feel that they NEED to look like them and that is how they will do it. we are surrounded by it, which puts insane pressure on us to look a certain way.
In my own experience I realised I had body dysmorphia last year, but it wasn’t down the usual paths and to the few that I have told about this, they have dismissed it as my narcissism (unfairly in my opinion). I read an article last year about how young men were taking steroids to achieve the “love island physique”. This annoyed me, because from what I’ve seen of the love island guys the last few years those physiques are nothing spectacular, and what I mean is that those physiques are definitely achievable WITHOUT steroids. That is where it occurred to me, my mind-set came to that because I compete, I push my body way beyond those love islanders and so to me, they are nothing special because I compare myself to much higher standard, having competed against world champions and winning competitions myself, BUT for the VAST majority of men out there who DON’T compete the guys on love island are the peak to them! and they want to do whatever they can to achieve that look fast! the higher standard I hold myself accountable to caused me to see the competing physique as the norm, so anything short of that to me was sub-par, not good enough, so much so that when I was with a partner (this part maybe TMI) I was scared to take my top off because I wasn’t as “ripped” as show day, and I was stunned when she asked me if I was joking because she thought I still looked amazing. See how my perception wasn’t the reality?
Another moment was when my coach, was encouraging me to compete alongside him, and at first I couldn’t imagine stepping on stage with him as I see myself as very small compared to him, but if I walk into my gym no one would think I’m small, again my perception isn’t the reality.
This is true for most people! How we see ourselves is probably not how most of the world sees us, we have a nasty habit of only seeing the worst version of ourselves. I’m confronted on almost a daily basis with women, who look amazing, but feel terrible about how they look, or young men obsessed with achieving big muscles fast, because of how they think they are supposed to look.
Now this may sound a bit hypocritical coming from me, after admitting my own dysmorphia, but I honestly believe our focus should be on how we feel mentally and physically. If we feel epic inside, then it is my firm belief that this will reflect on the outside.
Healthy body image to me, is just that a HEALTHY body, it’s not this swing to accept all body types as this has led to an extreme response that has begun normalising being overweight and in some cases glamourizing obesity, perhaps part of a society that is afraid to hurt any one’s feelings, even if it ultimately costs that person their health!
We often hear people talk about “healthy body image”, but forget the key word there “health”. The one thing that should be at the forefront of peoples focus. There is a reason for phrases such as “health is wealth” or when all seems lost and “you still have your health” because that should be our most prized asset, if we are at our best! We can do our best, achieve the best and ultimately feel the best we can.
We as a society seem to focus so much on how others see us, that we allow that to colour how we see ourselves, and the image we present to other people.
I admit fully that how I see myself externally is not how others have told me they see me, and the recognition of this fact has allowed me to renew my focus on BEING healthy as opposed to LOOKING it, and would you like to know the results of that? I have received more compliments from people since then than I did before. By focusing on being healthy automatically I look healthier and people notice that fact, and the best thing is I’m not doing it for them.
Remember the images, we see online and in the media aren’t real life, they are an idealistic fantasy. It is extremely tough but if we focus on how we feel internally we can try to block out how the external affects us.
Feel your best and you will look your best, it’s a pretty simple concept really and one I feel we could all benefit from. It’s something I have focused on massively since I took a year or two away from competing and I personally feel much better, I’m actually stronger and fitter!
Ultimately we should focus on being the best version of ourselves and not what we think society wants us to be. Is it really worth it paying serious money in teas with laxative just to drop a few lbs, because you think it will make you skinny? Is it worth risking your health injecting harmful chemicals into your system to strip off body fat and increase muscle mass?
Beauty is subjective, and we can’t all be beautiful to everyone, or even liked by everyone. This is harsh truth but it is one we must accept, in order to truly accept ourselves and be who we are meant to be.
Remember to health back into healthy body image! Focus on feeling great and if you need help with that feel free to contact me either via the site or on social media! I’m here for that reason!
In my opinion a healthy body is a beautiful body! be your best and forget the rest, don’t let your perception ruin your reality.