For quite some time I have given up on the comparison game.
Like James Bay says, “You be you, and I’ll be me.”
As far as body parts go I stopped worrying about how I lined up compared to others about the same time I got really into lifting. All I cared about was how strong I could get.
However, last summer when I took a good two weeks to contemplate whether or not I wanted to do a bikini competition, I spent a lot of time scrolling through Instagram. I wanted to read more about other competitors’ experiences and strategies, their tactics etc. and out of nowhere I started to slip back into the comparison game….
I could never be as lean as her….
My booty will never be as round as hers….
Will my shoulders get definition like that?
I began to feel like I wouldn’t have what it takes. Maybe I wasn’t good enough to compete…
The only way to find out what was going to work for me as a bikini competitor was to run my own race.
There are millions of people out there that are more shredded, more lean, more cut, faster, stronger etc, and I knew if I wanted to do well I needed to stop comparing myself to others and run my own race, be my own person.
Aside from *one* bikini competitor I looked up to and followed on Instagram and some YouTube videos I watched to learn how to pose, I really didn’t follow a lot of bikini competitors on Instagram or worry about anyone else’s progress.
If I had spent time comparing myself to people on Instagram I wouldn’t have even had time to meal prep because there are a daunting amount of “fitspo” accounts with progress photos that leave you wondering… “Should I look like that?”
This tactic really helped me work on me and become the strongest version of me.
However, I was saddened the other day to be reminded of what it’s like to play that comparison game, or feel as though you should look a certain way based on social media when I client sent me this note:
(disclaimer: the #DaretoEat Program has mini-homework assignments and this was part of a response to a series of questions in the week 7 homework)
“The areas of my body I’ve never liked are my legs, though I’ve gotten used to their size–I just want to lengthen them so I don’t look as bulky. I find it funny though that recent trends make it seem like super muscular legs like mine are becoming popular, especially for body builders (or so some instagrams seem that way lol).”
It seemed as though the media was changing her own perception of her beautiful, POWERFUL legs, and I wished that as women, we had were able to love our body parts because we love them and not because they are “in” or “out.”
My client’s comment made several thoughts come rushing to my head… I remembered the story and experience I had a few years ago that made me decide that I could not play the comparison game any longer.
Today I am here to tell you about my frustrating experience with trying to be, (or not to be) what Instagram said I should be.
Flashback to 2013:
A few days after I posted a photo showing me with my latest crush we ran into his friend at a bar.
I made small talk with a girl nearby while my crush caught up with his friend.
I glanced over and saw his friend making a very pronounced gesture with his hand that looked like this:
Later on I asked my new guy what his friend had been talking about.
He told me that his friend was referencing my latest Instagram where it appears I have a “nice” thigh gap.
“He thinks ‘the gap’ is nice,” said my crush.
I was shocked and kind of embarrassed.
I was also kind of giggling because I know that I don’t actually have a thigh gap.
For whatever reason in the photo below, the way I stood made me look like I had a gap.
Because of how much chatter and adoration there seemed to be on the subject of “thigh gaps” in the media I was kind of proud for a second.
But then I felt mortified.
What if they realized I don’t actually have one?
Would they still like me?
Is this the thing that would make me attractive?
Am I unattractive without one?
As an insecure 22 year-old, I hated that these were the things going through my mind, but they were.
To my luck, (or maybe not), some incredibly powerful, inspirational women I followed in the fitness industry started a campaign against thigh gaps in social media calling it “close the thigh gap.”
I was stoked about this!
I loved the meaning behind “close the thigh gap.”
This was something with which I could get on board.
Pretty soon my Instagram feed was stocked full of women showing off their thick thighs with pride and joy.
However, I quickly realized, as much as I wanted to be a “quadzilla” I didn’t really have thick thighs from lifting, yet….
I’ve always had strong quads from gymnastics, but they aren’t really “big.”
No amount of 200 pound back squats, 275 pound deadlifts or heavy front squats will help my quads get that big.
No matter what I do, my legs will always look the same.
I felt discouraged for not having a thigh gap and I felt frustrated that I’d never have “thick” quads either.
They have always been my favorite body part, yet, in 2013 the media was determining whether I should be proud of them (or not), be embarrassed by them (or not), work on making them bigger, or making them more “gap-y” etc.
I felt the same confusing feelings my client described this week in her homework assignment.
However, all the contemplation helped me come up with one excellent realization: thigh gap or not, with the crazy ups and downs in social media, I loved them all along.
I learned to accept that they are my favorite and no matter what the current trend becomes, I will still love my legs.
I learned that I dislike it when people push one thing or another.
I hate that there are positive or negative campaigns about body parts.
I dislike that these body image brigades get so much attention. And although we are inundated with them every moment of every day and we can often ignore them, at some point, depending on our mood, they get under our skin.
“I want us all to bake a cake made of rainbows and smiles that everyone could eat and be happy….”
I know that the “close the thigh gap” movers never intended to exclude anyone, however, I honestly felt like if there was a table of thick thigh girls in the highs school lunch room that is social media, I would not have bene invited to sit down with them.
I will never put fat or much more muscle my legs and I cant help it!
Insecurity is an evil, ugly beast; one of which I was not willing to surrender to any longer.
And so then it was a sure thing, I was done comparing myself to others, no matter what.
And without the comparison battles I was able to accomplish my SFG cert, compete in two powerlifting meets and a bikini competition and be entirely proud of myself for crushing the goals I set which were entirely unique to me.
Seeing all sides of this issue reminds me of a few things I want to leave you with today:
- Learn to love all the parts of YOU because you are a unique individual and the cool part is there is NOBODY ELSE LIKE YOU.
- It’s cool to feel “in” with a trend, but thing about trends is that they come and go. One second long hair is in and the next thing everyone is cutting their hair. You can;t change your body on a whim like you can change your hair– you gotta be down with your bad self for the long haul! It’s better to work on feeling “in” with yourself and comfortable in your own skin for what you can do and how you can help people.
- I do not disagree with anyone’s ability to express themselves on Instagram. We have the freedom of speech and expression and for that we are very lucky. There’s not wrong expression.
- I believe in posts that help others, posts make the poster happy (like, what would that unique individual want in their own photo album? They should post whatever makes them happy), and posts that tell great stories.
- Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. Sexy images, non-sexy images and fitspo images have a place for everyone. We are all motivated by different things. I believe we should not talk about whats good or bad and rather let us all find what we like to follow and be motivated by our own inclinations remembering there is no standard.
- Your legs or arms or abs should be a strong reflection of their strength and what they can do for you, not how they measure up to social media whims.
- There is no fitting in or fitting out; there’s only you feeling stoked on you! And, if your pants don’t fit, wear leggings 🙂 You be you.
Again, there is no standard. We should focus more on the cool, exciting, fun an interesting things on social media.
We should focus on posts we personally love that inspire us as unique individuals versus spending time and energy on what is “bad,” because there’s no “bad,” it’s simply something that’s not to our own tastes.
Finally, try your best to run your own race.
If half naked selfies motivate you, follow all the naked selfie posters!
If you love watching videos of strong powerlifters– good on you!
If you want to only follow food Instagram accounts, great.
But remember there is no standard; there is only you becoming the best version of you.
People who post about themselves are choosing to share things that make them happy and there is no standard for happiness either.
You do you, and you will begin to find more happiness.