This summer something happened. Something BIG happened. To most people on the outside, it may not have seemed like the earth shattering ordeal it was to me, but it seemed like just that. And on the heels of our podcast with Stupid Easy Paleo where we discussed the topic of being proud of your body, I thought I'd take a moment to share this story with you all.
(If you're sensitive to the F word, proceed with caution!)
I was working out on a 90 degree day here in Seattle at my Crossfit gym, in long crops and a cotton tank top, when I suddenly realized how wildly hot and uncomfortable I had become. My tank was completely soaked and stuck to me, I had sweat dripping into and stinging my eyes, and I felt like the internal heat from my body was going to make my head explode. So do you know what I did? I was just so, so HOT. I felt I had no choice. I had to. So I did it. I took my shirt off.
That might have been the most anticlimactic story you’ve ever heard, but let me explain. I’d never done that before. Ever. Had I thought about it every single time I worked out on a summer afternoon? Yep. Had I envied the girls in the gym who would confidently workout in shorts and a sports bra and had nothing that jiggled when they moved? You betchya. Would I fantasize what a breeze on my back would feel like during the 800m runs on the hottest of days? Every time. Why couldn’t I just take off the damn shirt?
Because I had parts that jiggled. Because I didn’t look like a 'fitness model'. Because I was embarrassed that people would see my bare midsection and think differently of me. Because I have scoliosis that squished my torso down, making it lopsided and weird looking. Because I thought that only people with less than 7% body fat were “allowed” to take off their shirts, that people would shudder and grimace and tell me to put it back on already.
I mean, it took me most of the last two summers to get to a place where I even considered buying shorts, let alone wear them into the actual gym and then jump around in them. Shorts were scary for me, with all their lack of uplifting spandex, and of course all their… well, shortness. I had just started to feel moderately ok about wearing shorts, but the shirt-off look? Not for me and this body.
So what was it exactly that made me decide that day, right then and there in the gym, mid-wod, that I was going to take off my shirt for the first time in my life? Was it that I woke up that morning with washboard abs and a perfect tan? Uh, no.
I just ran out of f*cks to give. Plain and simple. I realized that I’m a thirty year old grown ass woman and I just simply don’t give a f*ck anymore about what someone could possibly potentially maybe think about what I do or do not look like to them. I realized that I am now running a health and fitness blog where we encourage women to love their bodies as-is, to feel confident in their skin and rock what they’ve got, and I was hardly practicing what I was preaching to the many women who were looking up to me in that regard. I realized that I had an incredible opportunity to lead by example, to show myself and other women around me exactly what it looks like to stop caring what other people thought, and instead do what I want. And what I wanted was to bare my less-than-perfect midriff so that I could get a hint of a breeze across my skin during my workout. So I did it. And I am so, deeply and wonderfully glad that I did.
Did the music screech to a halt and everybody drop their barbell, stare and gasp and cringe and cry? Um, no.
And here’s where the knowledge bomb hit for me: Our fear about how people see us or what they may think of us is completely and entirely 100% based in how we think about ourselves, and not about them, even one little tiny bit. Being terrified that that cute guy in your gym you’ve been flirting with will see your cellulite and decide he’s not into you anymore is absolutely the biggest pot of pure bullshit garbage soup EVER, and you are spoon feeding it to you, and you’re eating it right up. All of this negative, nit picky, awful self talk is coming from YOU, and you have the power to make it stop for good. (Side note: The irony is he will very likely be MORE into you, since nothing is hotter than confidence).
If we could just get out of our own way, we’d find that we have a lot more possibilities for amazing experiences in life than we think. I shudder to think about what wonderful things I wasn’t able to experience because I was embarrassed or ashamed of my body. I challenge us all to start taking the reigns on our internal dialogue, start realizing that nobody cares what your body looks like (since they’re likely caught up about what you think of theirs, anyway), and just decide that we aren’t the type of people who care what you think, anyway. We just don’t give a f*ck.
And woah wait hold on a second I know what you’re thinking. “Of course it’s easy for Jen to wear that bathing suit because she’s a size 2!”, or “Yeah she can rock those shorts because she doesn’t have a dot of cellulite”, or some other asinine variation of another woman being leaner/shorter/prettier/curvier/younger/taller/other ridiculous perceived physical advantage over you, making it easier for them to exude confidence.
I really, sincerely urge you to remember the fact that we ALL have something. We ALL have that negative voice that says awful things about ourselves, we all have insecurities that stem from a lifetime of experiences, we all have something about our outer appearance that we wish we could change. EVERY. BODY. No one's insecurities are more valid or real than anyone else's. So even though it might not always seem that way, we are ALL equals in this pressure-filled world of trying to fit in, be liked, like ourselves, look good, feel good, and be happy. Mmkay?
(If you haven’t yet, read our post on why you should stop comparing yourself to others)
Also worth noting: Does baring skin = body confidence? No. Don’t feel like that’s what you have to do to earn the Body Confidence Badge of Honor. It is simply something that I personally struggled with, and something I wished I didn’t struggle with.
What is it that makes you self conscious that you wish didn’t? What do you want to be able to just get over already and accept happily? You can take whatever pieces of my story that align with your life, insecurities, goals and wishes, and apply where needed, in whatever degree feels right.
So is it easy to switch gears and decide you just don’t care what people think anymore? Not always. It took bit of faking for me until I made it, and I still have days where I feel like I have eyes on me if my shorts are too short and revealing cellulite, and I get self conscious. But as soon as I feel that “I wonder what they think of me” thought pop into my head, I say as loud as I possibly can (in my mind, of course), that I. don’t. give. one. f*ck.
After all, I’m not doing it for them. I’m doing it for me. I’m doing it to stay cool through my workout, yes. But I’m also doing it to prove to myself that I can. I’m telling myself that I’m the kind of person who doesn’t care what people think, and I convince myself of that a little bit more each time I wear short shorts or take off my tank. Every time I decide to bare some skin, I actually become the confident-in-her-skin, rock-what-you-got, don’t-care-what-anyone-thinks kind of chick that I envied before. I become proud of myself for my bravery and ability to overcome my fears, and that feeling brings me confidence. The silliest act of taking off my shirt in the gym has actually altered who I am and what I think about myself.
Beyond doing it for me, I’m doing it for the woman next to me in the gym who wears long pants on million degree days because she’s too embarrassed to shop for shorts, let alone wear them into the gym. I’m doing it for the woman who never gets in the ocean anymore because it requires taking off a layer of clothing. I’m doing it to show the women around me that if I can feel ok baring my cellulite, jiggly parts, and far from “perfect” body (for the sake of dodging heat stroke or otherwise), that they can too. I want those women to see me, stop and think in awe, “Wow, she just really doesn’t give a f*ck”. And I can stand proudly with my chin held high with my imperfect body bared in all it’s glory, smile wide like a badass rebel goddess and say, “I know”.
So no, you don’t need to look like a fitness model to be proud of (or bare) your body. You just need to think like you’re proud of your body, to be proud of your body. And if “proud” is a ways out for you like it can be for most of us, just try this: Decide that you just don’t give a f*ck and do whatever your heart desires. Chances are, you’ll not only end up impressing and surprising yourself, but encouraging other women to follow suit. And that, my friends, is how real change gets made.
P.S. For the love of doughnuts, please oh please watch this Beyonce video, dance around in your underwear, let your jiggly parts be free and sing it: you are a grown woman, you can DO WHAT YOU WANT.