How Getting In Touch With Your True Values Can Completely Change Your "Ideal" Body Aesthetic
When I was as little as 5 years old I can remember my mom getting Victoria’s Secret catalogs in the mail. This was my first introduction to the sexualization of women. I didn’t understand it at the time, but I was starting to form in my mind the “ideal” body type of a woman or anyone identifying as female. Since I was destined to barely reach five foot four inches tall, I was pretty much setting myself up for disappointment.
Society is starting to call bullshit on these ideal body types but they are still everywhere you look. We are bombarded on a daily basis with “fitspiration” in the form of bloggers, diet ads, and the latest diet trends (anyone else sick of Atkins being rebranded over and over again???)
I’ve been recovered for a long time but as soon as a year ago I’d still feel bad about my body when I saw the latest Paleo blogger posting gym selfies of her rock hard figure with visible 6-pack and bulging triceps. I would think “what do I have to do to look like HER?” The truth bomb is that I will NEVER look like her no matter what I eat or how I move my body. My body is genetically unique to me, something I now consider a gift from the Universe. I don’t build muscle easily. I like to eat carbs and all the things and to feel nourished.
The difference now? I don’t want to look like anyone but me. How did I get to this radical shift in mindset? I did a lot of work getting in touch with my values, which look something like this:
Human connection: I value connecting with others and truly hearing and getting to know them. Sometimes this means spending time with family and friends at gatherings which means cocktails, pizza, cupcakes!
Authenticity and Honesty: If I’m being authentic to myself, I don’t really value a six pack. I love to move my body in ways that feel good to her and that changes day to day. Whenever I’ve been in a place in my life where I’ve tried to achieve a body type that is unnatural to me, I’ve been unhappy and attracted other people into my life who I wasn’t able to authentically connect with. Diets and exercise plans are a lie and I’ve felt like a traitor to my true self any time I’ve tried to follow one.
Freedom: This one is huge for me. I do not like being constricted by a bunch of arbitrary rules that society has placed on me or ones that I put on myself! Being free means connecting with my body each moment of every day and asking her “what do you need? Fresh air? To talk to a friend? A snack? Sleep?” Following any type of specific food rules takes this freedom away from me and puts my body and mind in the hands of an outside influence. This always, always diminishes my levels of joy. There are no rules! Except be kind :).
Femininity: The control we put around food and movement is a very masculine quality and our society values masculine qualities more than feminine ones. Feminine = flow. Flow with life, gentleness, softness. So it makes sense that women would want to be stronger, harder, more toned: it’s an expression of masculinity in a male dominated culture! Going with the flow and having softness in my life and on my body feels more organic to me than rigidity, especially since perfectionism is in my nature. Embracing this more feminine flow is important to me in my life.
Compassion: When I’m being compassionate, I’m listening to my body and her cues. She doesn’t like high intensity workouts or cardio and I honor that. Having more mind space outside of food and exercise also allows me to show up for my friends, family, and even strangers in a loving way.
My list of values goes beyond this but hopefully you get the idea! When I was out of touch with my values I was easily influenced by our culture’s narrow standard of beauty and acceptable body types. I could look at anyone thinner and think she was superior somehow (oof). The other day I clicked on a recipe link from a food blogger I adore and it was from a paleo blogger’s website. The link was loaded with images of her super fit bod and I prepared myself for that feeling of inadequacy. It never came. I understand now that there is a lot underneath these perfect and likely photoshopped images that I don’t know. Is this woman happy? Does she feel nourished throughout the day? Does she sleep well? How much time must she spend planning her workouts and meals? Might she be happier spending this time with loved ones or doing something she likes deep down like shopping for records or playing a game on her phone? This is obviously hypothetical. My point is that there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes that we don’t know. A toned physique, perfect workout routine, and the ideal macros never made anyone happier - I feel extremely confident saying that.
The women I look up to and admire now are all different shapes and sizes but they all have one thing in common: they are authentically and consistently themselves, they are compassionate, confident, strong, and real. Truth be told I can be looking at a magazine and see a photo of a “perfect” body and prefer that aesthetic to my own. I’m not willing, however, to sacrifice my own happiness and freedom to achieve that look. In the end, I much prefer to have some feminine softness to my body and to have her feel loved and taken care of to being a rock solid hard ass who is grinding myself into the ground every day for no real reason.
If you’re still grinding it, I get it. My values didn’t change overnight. It’s a fluid process and I’m not sure I’ll ever “arrive.” You know what, though? We all have permission to change our minds, values, and what’s in our hearts. If something doesn’t feel good to you - for example, looking at super thin women and wishing you looked like them and/or your role model body that you aspire to - it’s okay to let it go. <3