By Sarah Bogden
Over the past few weeks I’ve noticed that my body has become “looser.” My butt jiggles a bit more when I step, and my stomach went from a budding four pack to a cozy one pack. But I’m okay with it. If I wasn’t, which I wasn’t a few months back for sure, I would not have written this post.
Now, I’ll be honest, this post was inspired by my first trip back to the gym in about 6 months. If anyone reading this knew me a few months ago, you’re probably shocked. And if you really knew me, your mouth may be on the floor. Because, yes, I was once a burning calories, workout DVD obsessed, pre-workout junkie, straight up body-conscious maniac.
So what shifted? How is it that the place I once planned my days around (which I did) now intimated me? I did not know my left from right or what contraption was going to do what, flooded with fear as soon as I realized I had completely forgotten what a gym workout was consisted of. How many reps was I suppose to do? How do I adjust this seat? Do I have the right shoes on for this? I could feel my ego deflating, because I had once placed my self-worth in these routines.
So much of how we define ourselves is through the physical body. We obsess over the density and tone of random muscles, complimenting her quads and his pecks, creating ideas of how people are centered around the way they appear. I can remember comparing myself to other girls at the gym thinking “well at least my biceps are toner than hers” or “if only my core looked that flat.” I judged those beautiful women, and labeled them, subconsciously, as body parts, because my idea of self image at the time was just that. It did not go much farther than what the outer shell of a human being looks like. It did not encompass their whole human existence. I literally individualized them by a muscle on their body and identified them as such. I judged them, I judged myself, but moreover, I saw them as different than I. And, yes, honestly, sometimes I assumed I was better. And it was painful. And obsessive. And lonely.
I’ve literally “softened my shell” since my muscle tone has escaped me and been resurfaced with soft, fleshy, humanly skin. With my body less “tight” it’s stopped grasping for the image it was searching through all those hours of cardio and insanity workouts. I’m less “defined” both muscularly and mentally, as I’ve stepped away from all those definitions I set for myself as a chick that can do 80 squats a minute. There’s nothing wrong with physical strength, but what was I proving? That I could pick things up and put them down really fast? What purpose did that serve?
Insanity can be defined as actually believing your thoughts. Which I did. I was somewhat insane. Because I believed my thoughts that told me my body was not toned enough. Not strong enough. Not perfect enough.
But I am enough. I am so enough.
My first day back at the gym flooded me with memories of hours on end spent in this space that were filled with dark thoughts of my own self image. I came to realize I was literally not working out MY body, because I was focused on an image of one that was outside of myself. I was picking things up and putting them down, lifting my knees at rapid speed, cramming my joints and muscles, all for the sake of sculpting a figure that I had projected and associated as being perfect. Never mind the divinity within me, I wanted her six pack, her perky butt, and her capped looking shoulders.
Now, I can honestly say my perspective has shifted to a place that I honor my body. So I would like it to be strong and able, so that I can perform daily tasks, like picking things (chairs, my laundry basket, my little sister) up and putting them down, and other sorts of physical labor so I can be of service to others. I also enjoy the seratonin release of a nice run, and of course a physical yoga asana.
Since my body shape has changed, although it’s not been drastic, I’ve come to separate myself from the idea that I need to by physically “perfect” to be valued. I had once lived from a mindset that had created a hardened image in my brain of what I was suppose to look like, I was so sure I would feel full when I looked that way. But when I started to look “that way,” I was sore, aching, and in so much pain that I actually spent more time resenting my body because it was affecting how I was experiencing my days. It did not feel good to be in my body.
But life is comprised not of how the machine looks, but where it takes you. When I wanted to appear different was when I was most closed to what I truly wanted, which was to feel. There’s taste, touch, smell, laughter, and meditation. And dark chocolate. And I was missing out on so much of it all of those hours at the gym. All of the dinners I skipped to get my cardio in. All of the friendships I put as second importance to my own selfish needs of wanting to look better. There’s so much more. So, so, so much more.
Image: Redd Angelo