Five weeks ago I let one of my aerials friends talk me into trying a sample pole class. I expected that I would feel silly and embarrassed. I wasn’t excited about having to wear shorts. I was almost positive that I wouldn’t be willing to actually get into pole because once you get past the beginner levels it more or less requires that you expose most of your skin – otherwise you’ll slide right off.
I was right about one thing: I did feel a little bit uncomfortable in my shorts. But aside from that? I was wrong. So very, very wrong.
This is a topic that I’ve covered a lot, because body image is something I’ve struggled with for many years. The first time I went on a diet I was in seventh grade (and nowhere near overweight), and I’ve fought a near constant battle over my self-image ever since, as I believe most people do nowadays.
But lately, I have to be honest, I’ve been checking myself out in the mirror everyday. Sometimes several times a day. Definitely when I’m changing so I can admire my new muscles; I’m pretty sure this adds at least a couple minutes to my getting ready time in the morning. And I’m not going to be ashamed of it.
I spend a lot of time on this blog talking about losing weight. And there’s a valid reason for that – I’ve put a lot of effort into losing weight, I feel great about the results, and it’s something that a lot of people are trying to do and/or struggling with.
But today I want to talk about something completely different. Today I want to talk about getting bigger, wider even, and why I am absolutely thrilled! Although no, it’s not about the size of my waist.
That picture right there is a big deal. And it’s not because of the bruises you can just barely make out on the tops of my feet (those are from the trapeze when I tried to do this). It’s because of the yoga pants.
I have always been modest in the way that I dress.
I traded shorts for mostly knee-length skirts when I was probably ten or eleven years old because I didn’t like the way my legs looked in shorts and wanted them to be covered. For most of middle and high school I opted primarily for skirts between my knees and my ankles or, most of the time, pants. I even wore pants throughout the summer, despite being hot. I also carefully selected higher neck lines in my shirts and dresses or wore layers to make sure there was little to no cleavage showing (which was not an easy feat because the amount of cleavage I had was substantial). And I never wore anything “slutty.”
There were times, of course, where I’d put on a slightly more revealing outfit at home and be pleased with what I saw in the mirror. But as soon as I walked outside to where people could actually see me, I’d immediately get overwhelmingly uncomfortable and start adjusting things to cover more or add layers or even just keep my hands in strategic locations until I got an opportunity to change my clothes. And when I say “more revealing” here, I mean something along the lines of a skirt just a few inches above my knees and a shirt that shows maybe half an inch of cleavage. So in other words, a totally normal outfit.
I knew my understanding of what was appropriate to wear was different from other girls’, but I never really thought much of it. I just said that I was “modest,” like that was a totally normal and healthy attitude. Now don’t get me wrong – modesty, when inspired by modesty, is certainly not a bad thing. But what I didn’t realize was that my modesty was not motivated by modesty; it was motivated by a very negative body image, and that is a problem.
I want to share this article about a man’s struggle with his body image throughout his life, both because I think it’s important that we acknowledge that negative body image is an everyone problem – not just a girl problem – and because I think it does a good job of getting to the true nature of image-related self-confidence; it’s about more than just how you look.
I recently talked about how my confidence has improved quite a bit as the number on my scale has dropped, but I know that there’s a lot more to it than that: looking good isn’t enough, you have to feel good too. And that’s something I am still continuously working on. I think this article is a great reminder, for everyone, to focus on both.
There are a lot of things, body image-wise, that I’ve become more confident about since I started working out on a regular basis. It’s difficult for me to attribute most of those to an increase in confidence since they came from an actual improvement in how I look, however, there’s one thing that I’ve become more confident about that most certainly has not changed: my ponytail.
I used to hate putting my hair up. I’d do it when I had to (read: my hair was too greasy to leave down), but I was so self-conscious about it that it was literally distracting to me – for nearly the entire time I had it up. That was, I used to… until I started working out.