A few weeks ago I put out a call for men to share their experiences with body image with me for an upcoming blog post. I received some great responses and it’s really got me thinking about how it seems that no one is safe from feeling less than, regardless of your current physique. And by no one, I’m including men. That’s right, ladies: we are not alone in feeling like our bodies don’t measure up.
One male fit pro mentioned how there is a standard set by the fitness industry that oftentimes even the fittest of guys struggle to reach. Women’s battles with these standards are probably just more openly discussed, but if WE ALL (and yes, that includes a totally ripped, muscular guy) feel like we don’t meet the standards, what is the fitness world doing wrong? When the bar is set so high almost no one can achieve it, why do we insist on leaving it there? How did we get here?
I’m 5’8″ and the average height for women in Canada is 5’3″. Another man who shared his experience said he feels like he’s judged because he’s not the average height for a male. A male friend mentioned that he, too, experiences a certain degree of judgement based on his height. He’s 5’8″ just like me, and we’re judged in very different ways. Some people assume he can be dominated in the business world, while many find a taller woman intimidating in the conference room.
I encounter this battle with conflicting expectations everyday. As a woman, as a mom, as a wife, as a fitpreneur. Growing up I was lovingly (?) referred to as a beanpole. A flat-chested beanpole. I always felt unpretty and inadequate because I was too tall, too thin, and not curvy enough. Until I was about 19 years old I wasn’t sure the world at large would see me as a woman. Flash forward to now with my child bearing hips, stretch marks, and ample bosom: there’s no confusing me for a man, but that mindset is still there. I feel pressure to prove I’m a woman and to achieve this, I feel compelled to meet the standards our strange society have chosen to accept. Now I am sometimes viewed as not being thin enough and having too many curves. I still don’t meet the damn standards! Who does?!? (Honestly, when you take away photo touch ups and airbrushing, professional hair and makeup and spectacular lighting, who truly does?)
So I say f-ck the standards! I believe in health and happiness and that looks different on everyone. Sure, my boobs get in the way of some yoga poses and I’ve got to order heavy-duty sports bras online, but I’m still fit and I refuse to stop pursuing my goals. A fit man is still a man regardless of height. A woman is a woman regardless of her shape and size. I would have preferred to have been leaner and more toned in my Fear Less presentation video and photos, but I am a work in progress just like everyone else out there.
I am choosing to set my own standards and recognize that I’m worthy at every step of that journey. I vow not to hold others to my standards, too, which is where we as fitness professionals need to show some improvement.
Please share your experiences and feedback with me firstname.lastname@example.org