Tuesday, August 9, 2011

On Body Image

A few weeks ago, I was at the beach with my family.  My sister snapped a picture of me ready to head out for our first full day, and I uploaded it on Facebook.  It's probably the picture that has received the most comments, likes and private messages of all the thousands I've ever posted.

When I went back inside later that day, my iPhone was lit up with all sorts of notifications.  At first, I realized that maybe it was a bit narcissistic of me to post a photo of myself in a bikini.  However, I read comment after comment, and then message after message, and then saw who all and how many people selected to like it... I knew that I had not posted it looking for the least bit of affirmation.  I was excited to be on the beach and ready for a fun vacation!

Nonetheless, that doesn't mean I didn't like the affirmation.

I'm not posting it here looking for that either.  The whole situation just got me to thinking.  I know that I have nothing to complain about when it comes to my body... I'm fit. I run marathons. I generally eat pretty healthy (mostly so I can indulge in things like donuts and cookies and ice cream).  I know there are plenty of people who would scoff at me if I said one negative thing about my own body... people who would be quick to remind me that a marathon runner shouldn't complain.  Or that I'm not allowed to make a big deal over how hard it is to find pants small enough for my waist.

But here's what I think... we all know our own body intimately.  We're always going to look in the mirror and find something we don't like.  Do I like being as small-chested as I am? Most days.  It certainly makes running easier... but there are times I wish I had a bit more because then certain shirts might look cuter on me.  And I'm constantly aware of my tummy... people started commenting on this photo about wishing they have abs like mine, and my tummy is probably the part of my body I'm the most insecure about.  Even though a guy I care much for and that cares much for me told me with sheer honestly that he thinks my stomach is great and is probably a 9 out of 10 (adding, "who really can be a perfect 10 anyways?") and it was probably the best affirmation I had ever received... I still sometimes don't understand why I'm not more toned through there.

My point is this.  We all have things we don't like, but at the end of the day I think we have to have some confidence and focus on what we do like.  I work hard to have nice legs and a nice butt, so I like finding cute dresses that may be a bit on the short side or great jeans that really accentuate things... When you like how you look, I don't think it's conceited... I think it's confidence.

We beat ourselves up over our bodies too much I think.  I don't run to be skinny or whatnot.  I run because it's fun, I meet new people, I make close friends, I challenge myself. And to eat donuts.

Having nice legs?  It's kind of just a bonus.

I think if I ran because I wanted to change my body, I wouldn't enjoy it.  I almost think I might not ever be satisfied.

So I say: be confident.  Work what you've got.  Don't be afraid to hide, even if you don't think everything is perfect.  No one is perfect anyways.  Be strong.  Be proud of your fitness.  And if someone complements you, accept it.  We're not doing anyone any good by telling someone they're wrong and that we wish we had a better looking this or that.

Do I still feel a little narcissistic for posting a photo in a bikini? Sure.  But you know what? I run hard.  I play hard.  I try to enjoy life with a smile.  And sometimes that means I go to the beach in a bikini. No sense hiding that from anyone.


Nicole said...

smokin bod mel, smokin bod!

Marianna said...

Rock it! Love your encouragement. No need to be bashful of fitness and just doing what you enjoy.

bigr521 said...

Hey Melanie,

My name is Ryan Powell. You don't know me, but we went to the same high school, and we're 'friends' on Facebook - only because of the reunion group. I believe you're, actually, friends with Dustin Pfeffer, which was a good friend of mine in high school (lost touch since then, though). Anyway, oddly enough, I stumbled across your blog a few months ago when doing a Google search on the Moon Pie 10 Miler. I was quite impressed, and inspired, by your blog. I've stopped by to read your posts every now & then (hope that doesn't come off as creepy, haha!). At the time I first saw your blog, I was at a point in my life where I was finally tired of not reaching my fitness goals and tired of not giving 100% to my training. Not that I'm fat or completely out of shape by any means; like you said - we all have things we don't like about ourselves. Reading your blog gave me the thought to start my own - to track my progress, and hopefully, give me the edge I needed to improve my fitness & nutrition. I didn't actually expect anyone to read my blog, but it made me feel kind of liberated, in a sense, as if to release all my thoughts - I guess that's the point, huh? Between Facebook and your blog, you've given me a lot of inspiration, actually; plus, I enjoy reading about a fellow runner :) I read this post, and I just wanted to say that I completely agree with everything you said. I wanted to congratulate you on all your hard work and success. You should be proud of yourself! I know it's tough! Keep up the great work :)