Turns out the woman in the picture runs a website for plus-sized female athletes, featuring them in all of their triumphs and trials. Me being a plus-sized woman who wants to get more seriously into biking and hiking, but have always been rather intimidated both by my size and my clumsiness, was intrigued. As I read article after story after blog post about these remarkable female athletes, pursuing their goals without regard to anyone else's preconceived notions of what they should be, I started to realize that I am probably my own biggest critic when it comes to my fitness goals. (Well, okay that and whenever I decide to exercise after work on a regular basis, my son suddenly finds things to do at night so he can't possibly watch his sister while I go to the gym/track/whathaveyou, doesn't really help either, but I digress.) I am also far from alone in this ongoing self negating.
The comments on most articles about any woman that is not very small or thin bear me out on this. Although there are plenty of comments from men, which is almost to be expected, the comments from women range from hateful (the usual amount of shaming comments) to heartbreaking. The number of women that hate themselves, and anyone else for that matter, for not conforming to an image very few people can meet has reached epidemic proportions. Dear GOD, don't let it be an article or post about self acceptance. If a man between the ages of 17 - 35 can't get a boner by looking at your picture, you had better not even THINK about self acceptance. All of this will be hidden underneath a layer of barely concealed contempt, dressed in snark, and condescendingly labeled "concern for your health".
What so many of these keyboard critics don't realize is that all of the most important things about a person's life start with their perception of themselves. Anything that starts with self hatred is destined to end in failure, and self hatred starts where inability to accept that not everyone is going to look exactly alike begins. This is not to say that everyone shouldn't strive to be the best possible version of themselves, so much as it is reminding them that no two people are meant to look alike, and to decide for themselves what that best person looks like. Of course there are certain industries that thrive on personal insecurity; our job is to develop a healthy enough sense of self to let these industries cater to those they may. We can always opt out of the get thin quick schemes and harmful nonsense diet peddling.
Loving yourself first means seeking out and prioritizing what's RIGHT about yourself, rather than obsessing over flaws. I mean your real flaws, as decided by YOU, not dictated by a popular media that has an agenda, and a product to sell. Learning to love yourself BEFORE you begin to make changes puts you in the right mindset to stick to whatever plans you make to change what you feel needs changing, be it looks, finances, career or location. Everyone has at least one thing about themselves worth loving; if you don't know what that is, there are probably one too many people in your life whose favorite form of entertainment is making sure they let other people know precisely what is wrong with them, never mind the fact that their gleeful negativity is the largest part of the problem. But I digress.
By developing a healthier attitude towards yourself, you improve your outlook on most other aspects of your life, which in turn gives you the proper foundation for dealing with whatever comes your way after that. People that love themselves first develop a sort of resilience that carries them through failures, disappointments and thornier issues, all the way out to creating better habits, completed goals, and triumph.
Like that woman in the picture, who has completed marathons, triathlons, and is an avid competitor in sports. None of this could have been done without first loving herself enough to ignore the negativity, and pursue what SHE was interested in. I've always strived to be more of an encourager. It's nice to know that my thinking goes along the correct lines.
I want to be like her when I grow up.