Disclaimer: For those of you who proudly rock a six pack...relax...I am not knocking you at all. Read on.
The allure of having a six pack is something that just seems to get women in the fitness world all hot and bothered. While this might not be the case for some, I find all too often that many female athletes seem to allow the presence of a six pack, or lack thereof, define their progress, success and/or overall performance in the healthy lifestyle they strive to lead. This is something that, in my opinion, is just f***ing dumb. Eating right and exercising efficiently doesn't always take the shape of a completely shredded warrior princess...AND THAT IS OK!
Do you have six pack? If so - rock on! Let me be clear - there is absolutely nothing wrong with that little turtle shell you're sporting...you worked hard for it and, by God, I hope you flaunt your washboard abs in the skimpiest of bikinis this summer. But - and this is a big "but" that many women overlook - there is also nothing wrong with not having a tummy so chiseled you could play air hockey on it. It doesn't mean you're weak. It doesn't mean you're fat. It doesn't mean you're ugly. And it sure as hell doesn't mean you're worthless. Strength and beauty should in no way be measured by how many indentations travel across your midsection.
This whole rant is sparked by this relatively new wave of the media portraying strength as beauty - which I absolutely love. I am so down with that notion. It is freaking awesome to see the words "strength" and "badass" as synonymous with "beautiful." However, while the beauty paradigm shift from skin and bones to strong and muscular totally rocks my world, the physical portrayal of strength and beauty remains somewhat skewed solely from the perspective of "what strength looks like." To many women, this is what strength looks like:
This is what strength seems to look like because this is the body type that runs the gamut in the media's platform for "strong is beautiful." Is this chick beautiful? Uhhhh does Dolly Parton sleep on her back? Duh. She's probably strong AF and is certainly not hard on the eyes. Her arms look like they'd be illegal in at least 9 states, and I ain't mad at that. However, looking at this from the exclusive context of "so THIS is what it means to be strong and beautiful" just demeans your hard work in and out of the gym. In my opinion, the shift from skinny to strong as it's publicized these days (with a few exceptions), seems to have just gone from one extreme to the other. Beauty is no longer a size 00 and a thigh gap, it's now a six pack, butt cheeks "on fleek", impressive delts and cellulite-less thunder thighs. All of these things ARE beautiful and certainly indicate strength, I'm just saying they should not be interpreted as the only modes of beauty and strength.
I come to you with this post from a very recent point of self-realization as I am on the journey towards unconditional self-love myself. A couple of weeks ago, I got out of a grueling (yet sadistically satisfying) workout and not an hour later was I getting ready to go out and bitching about myself. 20 complaints and 3,000 outfit changes later did smack myself on the forehead. What is so imperfect about not looking like one of Zeus's mistresses? I had just PR'd a kettlebell deadlift and ran sprints like the motherf***ing wind and I was sitting there whining about the fact that my hips don't lie.
From that day forward, I've started intentionally practicing self-appreciation...something I'd strongly recommend if any of what I'm saying resonates with you at all. Literally just spend a minute or two each day and say what you like about yourself out loud. From shifting the perspective of "this is what I should look like" to "this is what I love about myself", I now fully embrace and am coming to - dare I say - love my body. My singular ab sometimes plays hide n' seek, my thighs clap when I sprint and my bum jiggles to and fro when I dance to Beyonce. But you know what else? I've got a mean left hook, I can snatch an unexpectedly heavy dumbbell and I feel strong as hell when swinging a kettlebell. Regardless of aesthetics, nothing changes the fact that I am strong, work hard, eat right and am worthy of self-love.
Sadly, practicing self-love and worth is a dying habit, while body shaming is on the rise. It's actually so disheartening listening to someone who just beasted it out on the gym floor pinch her love handles and pout. Instead of looking at yourself and assessing your strength and beauty based on what your body does or doesn't have, I implore you to celebrate what your body can do.