I’ve been thinking lately about body image since I watched and episode of Intervention about this girl who had an eating disorder. I read a week or so later an article about an Athletic Trainer’s role as part of an athlete recovering from an eating disorder. I wanted to learn more about bad body image and educate people that athletes are not impervious to having a bad boy image.
I like many other people out there have struggled with bad body image and learning to love myself. Every once in a while, I end up having some sort of heart to heart with my coach. One day I told him, “I feel like I’d have more confidence in weightlifting if I just had more confidence in myself.” He said, “Why don’t you have confidence in yourself?” I said tearfully, “Why should I?”
One of the reasons I am such an advocate of people loving themselves and doing things that make them happy and feeling beautiful inside and out is because I never ever want anyone to feel the way about themselves that I have ever felt about myself. We are too wonderful and too special to hold ourselves back by these negative thoughts we have allowed the world to get in.
Let me tell you, the world is a liar. You are great. I believe everyone has special talents and something that is beautiful about them.
How you let others tell you what is beautiful, normal, right or wrong, etc, is a choice. You can choose to listen to them and you can choose to believe them.
Making better body image choices:
1.) Tell yourself everyday something you like about yourself as a person vs. your appearance
My coach told me this tip. It’s soooo incredibly easy to get fixated on everything you hate about yourself. What about the stuff you like? Remind yourself that you have good qualities.
2.) Don’t compare yourselves to others
So far as appearance, character, athletic ability, and whatever else is concerned. I remembered thinking one day, that I may be envious of what another girl has, but she may look at me and be envious of something I have. It’s a waste of though to compare yourself to others.
3.) Control the media you subject yourself to
No one is telling you to read smut magazines that talk about sex, what you should wear to look good, or what you should eat to be skinny. No one is forcing you to watch those tv shows or movies or go onto those websites. Read good books, take a class, watch movies or shows about empowered people, read blogs, watch other athletes train or read their interviews, etc. These are the things you want to be absorbing. These are the people you want to learn from
Take classes, try out a new church, make new friends, volunteer work, travel, and try new sports or activities. You never know what you’re good at until you start trying new things. Being actively engaged in a good cause also distracts you from all the worries and cares you have in your mind.
If you’re talented or just like doing something, develop it. Get better, learn more, do it more often. When something gets easier to you or you see results, confidence comes.
6.) Surround yourself with love
If you’re friends say mean things to you, you need new friends. If people are going down and dragging you with them, get out. Surround yourself with people who love and care about you unconditionally.
7.) Move on
Understand that habits are hard to break. You may falter time and time again at whatever it is that you’re doing. Sometimes, you just have to move on. Forgive yourself. You can’t control the past or the future but, you can control right now. So do the best with your right now.
It’s important for people to understand that it’s not just adolescent girls that suffer from bad body image. People of any age, any size, ability, gender and even us athletes.
How do athletes struggle with bad body image? I think most people view athletes as strong and confident.
Here are some struggles that athletes go through:
1.) Extreme weight loss or weight gain for their sport
2.) Feeling like they have to look a certain way in order to be successful in their sport.
3.) Feeling like they have to look a certain way in order to get endorsement deals.
4.) Being embarrassed or isolated because of their appearance
5.) Feeling like you’re not attractive unless you are a certain weight or body type
6.) Eating, drinking, sleeping, socializing, and clothing options conflict what is “acceptable” or “normal”
7.) “Athletes” that represent products don’t look like us. Who ARE these people?
8.) Athletes are more in the public eye and feel appearance is more important.
What are some other ways athletes struggle?
I can tell you at some point I have felt most of these things. I remember crying on the way to the airport for a promo shoot in California because I felt like I was going to be the only large woman there and worried that there wouldn’t be clothes to fit me, or people wouldn’t be interested in interviewing me, or that I would just feel completely out of place. Thank goodness I was wrong! I felt included and beautiful and I tried to be comfortable and let myself be me. I have since been contacted afterward to finish up the projects and have been invited to do more, and I was told, “We’ve heard such good things about you!” “So and so just loved you.” I had let my bad body image almost ruin one of the most fun experiences and opportunities I have ever had. I learned that I should just be me and do what I feel comfortable with and dress how I feel beautiful, and the rest takes care of itself.
I can remember thinking “I wish I looked like an athlete.” Which is silly because I know, that athletes come in all kinds of shapes here are some examples http://ninamatsumoto.wordpress.com/2010/12/18/athletic-body-diversity-reference-for-artists/#
some interesting Q&A with athletes
I never really found satisfactory information about athletes and how to cope with bad body image but, I feel one of the best things to do is stick together and talk about these issues. If I could, I’d create a support group or organization called “AABBI” pronounced Abbey which is an acronym for Athletes Against Bad Body Image. This way all people and athletes can support each other and for the rest of the population to understand that athletes are just like them.
What are your thoughts on this issue?