Updated: Feb 29, 2020
Throughout my life, like a lot of young girls, I developed a false belief that perfection actually existed. I have constantly put pressure on myself to be my very best, and any less than that meant that I was failing.
I can relate this specifically to my body image while growing up. I remember being very young and having thoughts of not being good enough. Even in recent years, I put so much value on my physical body, and if it wasn’t portraying what I thought to be ideal, I was failing. Even during the periods of time when I more closely portrayed my “ideal”, I was still actively criticizing myself.
Recently I have learned the importance of knowing that your life will be full of different seasons, and that your body is forever changing through these seasons. It is so important to find happiness and a love within your body and within yourself that withstands your physical fluctuations.
I once had a friend share this insight with me, but at the time, I could not relate to her, because my head was so pre occupied with having perfection at all times. The conversation was with a friend I had in college over 3 years ago. I’m sure if I asked her she wouldn’t even remember this exchange, but it was something that stuck with me, and only until recently really understood just how important it was.
We were sitting at a Starbucks having a coffee together and catching up. Both of us were into fitness and training, so naturally we liked to talk a lot about how that was going for each of us. During this period of my life, I was beyond frustrated with where my body was at physically. It had not been that long since I put my body through an unhealthy prep for a bikini competition, and since then had suffered a lot of hormonal and digestive issues, along with uncomfortable weight gain. I was feeling self conscious, and I was confiding in her. As we were talking, I complimented her on how amazing she looked (a genuine compliment) and how her training was really working for her. She always looked amazing, but at the time she was in INSANE shape, and training really hard. This is when she said to me “My body looks like this right now, but I know it will fluctuate and it won’t stay this way. I wont always be able to train this much, or be this disciplined with my nutrition, and other things might become more important for a period of time. ” (This isn’t word for word what she had said, but it was the general idea she was stating, that she was more fine if she couldn’t maintain this “ideal” body permanently).
Like I said, at the time, I didn’t really get this. I was so hyper focused on having the perfect body at ALL times. Having this perfection mentality, you could imagine how devastated and angry I was at a situation where I didn’t feel like this was my reality. I thought that if I wasn’t always physically at my very best, then I was inadequate.
However, I have now come to appreciate my body at every stage, and what it does to protect me from different events in my life. One thing I have only recently began to believe is that my body is NOT at war with me, so it is counter productive to be at war with my body. My body has only ever tried to keep me alive and protect me. Any time in my life that I have ever felt like my body fights me in the form of extra fat, stomach issues, or even acne, it has only ever been to protect me, or to get me to stop and listen.
There will be times in my life where I am thriving both physically and mentally. I will be doing a lot of the things that I love every day, my stress will be low, and I will have the time and the energy to train in the ways that I love, and feed my body beautiful nourishing food. During these types of seasons, my body will look a certain way, maybe even what I would like to think of as my “ideal”. And it is important to appreciate your body during these periods.
However, there will be other times in my life where I go through hardship. This could look like anything, from the loss of a loved one, to a stressful time at work or in my personal life. This doesn’t only apply to me, but everyone who plays the game of life. It is useless to tell yourself that things can be perfect and you can be happy all the time, because that isn’t reality. During these times, it is important to listen to your body, and ask it what it needs. While your ego might tell you that you have to go to the gym for an hour to lift heavy weights in order to look a certain way or be successful, your body and mind might benefit more greatly from a soft yoga class, or even just sleeping more. Your body might look different through these periods, I know for me that has been the case. But you need to appreciate this season of your life just as much. Each season has something to teach you and help you grow, and your body is always doing the best that it possibly can for you.
Think about a farmer who grows his crops every year. When he is in harvest, he produces in abundance, but is it realistic for this farmer to be in harvest year round? Of course not! In the long term, this would not be sustainable, productive, or successful.
The same is true for your body and your life. You cannot expect yourself to be in harvest year round. Take advantage of your harvest, hustle and enjoy the fruits of your labor, but remember that this has to be followed by a season of rest and recovery. Trying to push your way through this slow season will only result in burnout, and your body will make you aware of this sooner or later.
It can be hard to navigate the delicate balance of life, but put simply, I truly believe that if you can try and find self love and happiness in every season of your life, no matter what the circumstance, well then you’ll be okay.