Appreciate What Your Body is Capable of, Today

It’s the end of your planned strength routine, the blood is pumping and your muscles are toast, but you’re going to crank out one more movement before calling it quits. You pick up a pair of dumbbells, pleasantly surprised at how you feel holding them, set your shoulders back and start alternating curls. “10… 11… 12! Phew!” You feel proud of yourself for cranking out four extra reps this week compared to last week then peek in the mirror to see a tidbit of bicep popping. Except you also notice how the person next to you is curling twice as much weight. Instead of continuing to feel elated about your strong arms, you’re disappointed they’re not as strong as your peer two benches over.

Almost everyone gets into this comparison trap and shifts their focus towards what they have yet to accomplish, instead of the successful progress they’ve made so far. You’re not alone in this feeling of frustration.

Inspiration shouldn’t cause a lack of confidence

Everyone (and yes, everyone) goes through a rough patch from time to time. Maybe you’re trying to make a fitness comeback after experiencing an injury, illness or other setback.

Even that certain fitness influencer on Instagram you follow daily, or the front-row superstar in your favorite class at the gym, who always appear to be on top of their game… Well, they aren’t. Online fitness and business coach Neghar Fonooni wrote an article dedicated to what it meant trying to get Photo Shoot Ready, and how she, “dieted hardcore in preparation, often times going to bed hungry and avoiding all social interaction” to maintain that physique. Now she can look back at those same images and think, “during that time, my body looked like this completely as a result of my lifestyle—strict training, strict dieting, and lots of energy spent on my body.”

Insider also published an article on The Dark Side of Instagram: When fitness culture goes wrong to highlight the negative effects seemingly harmless posts can have on our own self worth. The popularity of “fitspiration” on social media (#fitspo) may have good intentions, but can increase a person’s dissatisfaction in how they perceive themself. A 2017 study, The Impact of Different Forms of #fitspiration Imagery on Body Image, Mood, and Self-Objectification among Young Women, found “body satisfaction decreased and negative mood increased over time following exposure to the fitspiration images..”

The media you consume does not measure your value. Neither does your relationship with gravity, nor the weight of your dumbbells.

Appreciate What Your Body is Capable of

Appreciate what your body is capable of, today

Being able to appreciate your what your body can do takes time and practice. Know that you will feel better about yourself on some days compared to others, and that this mindset will still shift from time-to-time. Just like any other goal, appreciation is something you can continuously work towards and improve upon.

Easier said than done, right?! Here are a few tips to help you develop the self-esteem, confidence and body positivity to show more appreciation for what you’re already capable of:

  • Don’t let doubt kill your dreams. Or your goals, because having self-defeating thoughts can negatively impact your ability to reach them. Similar to a self-fulfilling prophecy, if you think to yourself how you’ll never be able to lift as much weight or do as many traditional pushups as someone else, you likely never will.
  • Cut out the comparisons. Try your best to not compare yourself to others, especially fitness models or professional athletes. It’s OK not perform at their level because they’re at a much different point in their fitness journey, which just so happens to be their full-time job. If you realize someone you’re currently following on social media contributes to this comparison problem, then unfollow them.
  • Follow people who make you feel good. If you do enjoy following certain people to find your motivation and get inspiration from, search Instagram or Facebook for influencers who match your fitness style, or have a body more similar to your own. Their posts should help you appreciate who you are and how far you’ve come. They should make you feel good (if not great!)
  • Practice body neutrality before body positivity. It’s common to hear the suggestion, “Just look in the mirror and repeat a positive affirmation or compliment yourself.” But, that’s almost like training to sprint before you’re used to jogging. Neghar Fonooni acknowledges, “When you make shapes with your body, you will create dimples and rolls and wrinkles and folds. Nothing will appear smooth, airbrushed, and perfect; this is normal. This is real. This is okay.” Instead of forcing yourself to be positive, try looking in the mirror and accepting yourself for who you are in this present moment. In a world of bipolarizing media messages, it really is okay to neither love or hate your body and to just be.

Loving your body all the time can be exhausting, just like it’s exhausting to hate your body. You may fall on either side of the spectrum on any given day, but giving yourself permission to accept your limitations and embrace your capabilities can be truly freeing. You may never be the next great social media fitness star, but you are an empowered and capable individual who can and will achieve great things for yourself. Embrace the fact you are trying, being consistent, and working towards your goals - not anyone chasing someone else’s dream.

Image credit: "Hotpants Quotes!" post pertaining to body acceptance and inspiration.

Image credit: Hotpants Quotes! post pertaining to body acceptance and inspiration.

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