I just finished reading this powerful article, Cellulite, Stretch Marks, And A “Love Your Body” Challenge from the Girls Gone Strong website, (which features Barre & Soul's nutrition coach, Stacey, who I can thank for this post!)
Major breakthroughs ensued.
Now this is funny because the idea is not SO revolutionary. Fitness pros have "flaws" and cellulite. Of course they do! (We do.) So… why did it affect me so much?
After reading, I had a few major 'aha' moments, and rather than wait until I can articulate them perfectly, I want to share them with you now, as I process them myself:
I see now that I've always thought of myself as an outsider from the fitness scene.
A lot of the women you see in fitness shoots and magazines, and even in the Girls Gone Strong post , I had imagined as devotees to a different, more hardcore type of fitness – heavy lifting, kettle bells, things that go on in the gym about which I knew nothing. I don’t do cardio, or high intensity intervals, or run marathons or lift anything terribly heavy in my line of work as a barre and yoga teacher, or even in my hobby doing aerial silks. On the other hand, folks in the barre fitness world where I’ve made my career are often serious ballet dancers. I’ve never been one of those either (although I have danced!) So I didn’t count myself as “belonging” to either of these groups. I distinctly remember going to NYC as part of my management training for a previous employer and feeling like a total impostor next to the wispy-thin ballerinas who graced the studios there.
I’ve also never done an INTENSE fitness shoot with like, special lights bouncing off my rippling deltoids... I imagine some would argue that there are photos on my own blog that are exactly those kind of photos. But I never experienced them that way. I remember the day of one shoot, trying to hide my upper body “flaws” with a flowy shirt, and making up a story in my head that the photographer was avoiding the kind of closeups that I had seen her do with other pros. Reading the girls gone strong post, and seeing the accompanying photos made me realize for the first time that yes, I am one of these fitness professionals. And we really don’t look so different after all. Funny to think that even I, someone who has been behind the scenes, didn't see it until now!
Yesterday I got an email from someone who had been to my site and they wrote “you sure are one fit lady.” “Ha! Fooled her,” was my first thought.
Kind of crazy, right? The thing is, I know that a photo like the one I use in my web header just tells the absolute best version of the story, and behind it are a hundred dreadful shots that never see the light of day. After my last "fitness" shoot over 2 years ago, I had been working out like a lunatic and drinking 1100 calories worth of expensive green juices per day for 3 days.(For the record, I do NOT believe in juice cleanses and I have stopped doing them.) I left the shoot completely and utterly drained. I went into my favorite coffee shop and ordered enough food for two people. I ate every damn bite of those nutella crepes before digging into an order of huevos rancheros. I was fucking starving.
I tend to recoil into a mess of insecurities the day after a photo shoot.
I know I’ve done my absolute best to look as celebrity-perfect as I possibly can, and if I’ve worked with a great photographer, I consider the results of that shoot to be the “best I can do.” In other words if I don’t get some flawless shots, I’m hopeless. My least favorite thing is having to see the un-retouched proofs come back with the unflattering ones included – even if “the world” never knows those imperfect shots exist – I do, and I let it turn me into a mess. I expect to look damn good in each one of those professional shots, and if I don’t, I feel like I’m not in league with the other clients I’ve seen in the photographers portfolio.
Just the other morning, a friend came over to film me for a short intro video we were hoping to post on my blog. Kind of a “get to know Andrea” interview for the camera.
At one point she commented to me, “people want to hear what your experience is like, you’re at this pinnacle of fitness.” And I thought “Another one fooled! She clearly doesn’t know what she’s talking about! I’m not even working out that much right now. I could probably only do 2-3 pullups at the moment."
PULL-UPS!! Only 2 or 3! How normal is it for women to do even a single one? It's abnormal. And yet I treat my 2 or 3 like they’re small time. In that moment, I realized that my idea of a "fitness" is a carrot on a string, and for all my running towards it, I keep it forever out of reach.
I’m not sure I had ever realized how much I was struggling with impostor syndrome as a fitness professional until just now.
This is a complicated issue - psychologically, socially and politically.
Clearly, I don't beat myself up like this all the time - if I did I would never put myself out there in the first place. This is just one nasty voice inside my head. The voice of the Perfectionist. Of "never enough."
There are other messages rattling around in there too, many of them positive.
I wanted to confess this to you because I believe you have a similar voice in your head, too.
You might have heard, and loved, Steve Furtick's quote:
One reason we struggle w/ insecurity: we're comparing our behind the scenes to everyone else's highlight reel.
Damn right. Don't forget, this is me SOMETIMES:
But I woke up like this:
And this is what I look like with dirt on my face after a long day of work on a studio project.
And just for laughs, here's what I look like in the midst of an unfortunate contouring mishap. (I don't look impressed.)
There's the highlight reel... and then there's behind the scenes...
This is a reminder, for me as much as it is for you: Wherever you are in your journey, there is someone in the world who would give anything to have the health, the strength and the beauty that you possess today.
Don't let perfectionism ruin your ability to love and appreciate yourself. And when you start to compare yourself to some external ideal you see in an image, please remember, one photo DOES NOT tell the whole story.
If you haven't read Cellulite, Stretch Marks, And A “Love Your Body” Challenge, do yourself a favor and read it now!