Last week was National Girls and Women in Sports Day. It is my annual excuse to write about the positive influence physical activity has on not just a girl’s, but on a woman’s life. It snuck up on me this year. Better late than never, so here we go.
If I asked you to describe your body, what would you say? Would you tell me how tall you are? Your hair color? Your build? Or would you tell me how fast you can run a mile, how many push-ups you can do in a minute or how your body carried you across the finish line of your first triathlon even when your mind wasn’t always so sure you’d get there? Would you tell me how your body’s strength gives you the guts to go after your dreams, how its stamina allows you the determination to never give up and how its flexibility affords you the ability to go with the flow even when it feels upstream?
For many of us, it would be the former. Unfortunately for most, our body image is too closely aligned with how we look or how our pants fit. Our self esteem…measured in dress sizes. We live in a society that seems to measure beauty on a scale when, in reality, a scale fails to measure anything of real importance. It does not measure happiness or love, kindness or accomplishment, nor does it measure health. So throw it out. Self worth should not be measured in pounds.
What if we learned to judge our bodies based on what they do for us instead of how they look? If we brought up our girls to be strong and capable, not thin and frail – all too willing to disappear? What if magazine covers promoted healthy, athletic and accomplished women, because strong IS sexy? By changing the things we value, we can change our mindset. I have a feeling as women, we would all have more respect for ourselves, be kinder to ourselves, more forgiving, and in turn, probably take better care of ourselves. Women should exercise to feel strong, healthy, accomplished and beautiful, and to reach measurable goals based on achievement, rather than loss.
This does not mean we leave our feminine side behind. On the contrary. I believe the more we embrace our bodies, the more feminine we become. It is possible to be hard and soft, tough and loving, strong and sexy, confident and vulnerable.
It starts with you. BE the change you wish to see. Whether you are a mom, a sister, an aunt, or a mentor, there is a smaller pair of eyes watching you, learning, taking it all in. BE the example. Eat food that fuels your body and soul. Exercise to feel beautiful, strong and accomplished. Be kind with your thoughts. Don’t say things to yourself that you wouldn’t say to your daughter. If not for yourself, do this for that other little pair of eyes. Empower her with the confidence to feel good in her own skin. Teach her to take care of and appreciate her body and all that it does for her. What better gift?