As a group exercise instructor I am honored to meet and teach amazing people who are at varying points along their personal wellness journeys. I count among my clients women who have survived cancer, pregnant women, postpartum women, men who are man enough to come lift weights with a room full of women, young folks just learning about their bodies, older folks hoping to preserve form and function, teachers, physicians, nurses, full-time moms, students, and so many others. Looking out at a class fills me with joy. I love the community aspect of group exercise, I love the camaraderie and I love to see clients make progress.
Seeing people grow stronger week after week through their own effort is one of my life’s greatest privileges.
I don’t think my clients see the strength, grace and beauty I see when I look out at them, though. Their silent refrain is practically visible on their faces:
“I hate my legs.”
“I’m so fat.”
“Ugh, I shouldn’t have eaten those doughnuts this morning.”
“If only I could look like the woman beside me.”
“My arms are flabby.”
“I have my mother’s hips. I hate my mother’s hips.”
I haven’t yet figured out a way to get them to see themselves as I see them. I can say, “great plank,” or “you’ve really gotten stronger,” but still, the doubt and self-loathing persist.
Why are we so hard on ourselves?
I can offer up the trite advice I’ve seen so often: Would you say to your best friend the things you say to yourself about your appearance? (Of course not.)
And. Yet. Still.
I don’t have an answer – only these parting words:
Your effort is beautiful whether you are lithe and limber, or three counts behind the rest of us. Your body is a gift. Use this amazing machine you’ve been allowed to inhabit during your time on Earth. Delight in it. Enjoy it in all the phases and forms it takes throughout your journey. Wear it out. Get it dirty. Laugh at it. Take pleasure in it. Love it.
Be inspired by it.