Are comparisons killing your body image?

shutterstock_235975732My coworkers are hot. At both of my jobs, physical fitness is key to the type of work we need to do. Therefore, everyone I work with is in ridiculously good shape. This is especially true in the dance company that I work for. Everyone is crazy lean and toned, because most of the time we are taking each other’s full body weight and executing crazy lifts. Believe me, this is not always determined by gender or body size. The women and men work on a pretty even playing field as far as partnering goes. “Greek gods and goddesses,” “Jacked as sh**,” and “Beastly” are all descriptions that are often associated with the group.

Being surrounded by very fit people can be both a blessing and a curse. Training and conditioning with my fellow dancers is beyond motivational. We are always there for each other, encouraging growth and pushing each other out of our comfort zones. I consider it healthy competition, and most of the time it’s a totally enriching experience. However…there are often days, weeks, maybe even months where the experience falls on the opposite end of the spectrum.

I am human, and like many others, am extremely critical of my own body. (This probably spawned from staring at myself in the mirror for 18+ years of my life in all of my dance classes.) Having to be in decent shape to perform properly for my job can also be a whole lot of pressure, especially when you have other factors such as casting, tiny unflattering costumes, and long cardiovascular work to consider. It’s enough to make you scream. Due to the nature of my job, I’m also being compared to my coworkers a lot of the time. When you’re competing for a role with someone who is in far better shape than you, it can be discouraging. It can make you feel like less than, unworthy, and just plain awful.

“How do you even compete? She looks like she’s made of stone. Look at those abs. Your abs don’t look like that, you just look mushy next to her. I have to stand next to her in a sports bra and briefs…crap. Everyone keeps saying how great she looks. Nobody ever says that I look good, so that must mean that I look fat.” *Continues on into a downward spiral of self-shaming BS.* This is an actual internal dialogue I had this past week.

I finally reached my breaking point, and then proceeded to realize how ridiculous I was sounding. Continuing to think this negatively about myself isn’t going to help me in any way, shape or form. In fact, it’s doing nothing but making me feel worse and giving myself permission to not work as hard because I’ll “never measure up”…and that is total crap.

Comparing and picking ourselves apart based on how other people look isn’t only self-deprecating, but it’s unrealistic. I measure in at a whopping 4 feet 10 inches, and my body is an entirely different structure than that of my coworkers. If I wanted to look exactly like that friend I compared myself to, I would have to make some drastic and unhealthy life changes to get the same results. Our body composition is very different, as she builds muscle very quickly and I do not. That doesn’t mean that hers is better, it is only different. In fact, we could weigh exactly the same and do the same type of workouts and I would still get drastically different results, merely because of my stature…and that is okay. Every body is unique, and we lose sight of that when the hotness factor comes into play.

Here is the issue – I’ve only been focusing on the negative. I’ve looked at what others can do that I cannot. What they have that I don’t. I haven’t been giving my body credit for what it is capable of and what it’s good at! Yeah, I’m pint sized and maybe I’m not able to lift as heavy or build as much muscle as others…but my strength may lie in other areas. For me, that includes being quick, having the ability to be delicate, and then surprising people by how functionally strong I am, although I don’t look it. I might not have 6-pack abs on the outside, but I do have a strong core that serves my dance training the way I need it to. I have a lot more strengths than I give myself credit for, and I bet you do the exact same thing.

No matter what career path we choose, we will all have negative thoughts and feelings about the way we look. It’s part of being a human, and it’s totally valid. But when it happens, we need to let ourselves feel it, acknowledge it, and move forward. Wave it goodbye, maybe even flip it off as it moves into the distance, because you do not need it. Find your own version of “hot”, whatever that means to you, and roll with it. No matter what your own definition of the word is, it shouldn’t be based off of your neighbor’s. Your body is yours for a reason. It’s time to celebrate our own body composition and acknowledge everything that we are capable of.

Written by Kara Foote

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