Self-acceptance is a difficult lesson, and it’s one that I think everyone has to learn on their own. I know we’ve all heard it a bunch of times: if you’re unhappy with yourself, losing weight isn’t going to fix it. If your self-worth is dependent on other people, you won’t be happy no matter how skinny or buff or “perfect” you are. Learning that for yourself is actually quite liberating, especially when we find ourselves in a world where we’re taught that we should always be striving to better our physical selves, and that our current bodies are always a work in progress, something to improve upon. I thought I’d share some thoughts on my own self-acceptance, vis a vis my bodybuilding competition goals.
My prep for provincials this year is well underway; in fact I only have on month left, which is definitely going to be the toughest month: exercise is ramped up and food is just starting to become more restricted. However, I have to say that although my first experience with competition prep was relatively “easy” (I didn’t have any emotional breakdowns, didn’t get sick, and mostly enjoyed the entire process) this time has been almost shockingly stress-free. If that sounds kinda braggy, I don’t care. I want people to know that it’s possible to enjoy this sport on an amateur level without hating your body, exhausting and starving yourself, and crying over your sad, plain chicken breasts. I love to exercise and tailor my workouts so I get the most enjoyment possible; I eat foods that I like and enjoy the way my body feels when I eat very healthfully; I’m focusing on taking care of my body, recovering, and learning about myself. It’s been great. I also think it’s been less stressful for me because I’m not doing this for any outside validation or to feel better about myself. A couple months ago by boobs and my hips were significantly bigger than they are now and I felt pretty darn good about it, thank you very much.
I’m not competing because I feel fat, ugly, or unworthy of love. I’m not doing it for attention. I’m doing it because I realize that if I don’t always have a physical goal to work towards I feel antsy and aimless. And that goal has changed many times over the years, and will continue to change – from swimming to running to CrossFit to powerlifting to bodybuilding to, well, who knows? That’s the fun of it.
Look, I’m not going to pretend that looking super fit isn’t a huge part of this. Throughout the contest prep process I really enjoy my changing body – I love having abs and visible pecs and striations on my shoulders. I love muscle and it’s fun to see mine grow and change. And yes, I post a couple pictures on Instagram to share with like-minded fitness weirdos. Maybe a couple people were even a little impressed, or were inspired by the work I put in. But ultimately, NO ONE GIVES A SHIT ABOUT MY ABS. And they don’t care about yours either. Sorry.
After three months of painstaking work to cultivate my glorious abs, my husband will say, “Wow! You look amazing! I’m so proud of all the work you put in! Now, let’s go to the movies.” My mom will say, “You look incredible, I’m so proud! Now, let’s go shopping!” My friends will say, “Nice job. I can’t wait until you can eat nachos with me again.” And I will say to myself, “Damn, girl! Look at your muscles! You’re a pretty big deal! But it’s time for you to go to work, and don’t forget you’re meeting up with your girlfriends tonight, and ooh look at those pretty earrings, you should buy those!” What I’m getting at is: Yes, you have abs. But the world continues to turn whether you do or not. It’s really, really not that big of a deal. You’re not a different person, or a better person. You’re just a person with abs. You still have to do your job, be nice to people, and take care of yourself. Nothing changes just because you have a few more visible muscles. So many of us think things will change, because we see pictures of buff people in magazines and man, don’t they look like they have it all figured out?
(These are just a few progress pictures, and you can see that I’m slowly getting leaner and smaller. Do you like me more in the last picture? Do you think I’m a better person because I lost a couple pounds? Do you really give any f*cks at all? Yeah, didn’t think so.)
This shouldn’t discourage anyone – it’s a good thing, really. It means that whatever your goals are, they should be for your own interests and pleasure only, not for outside validation. And it means that whether you’re a couple pounds heavier than you wanna be, or you’re “stage ready,” it makes no difference to the people who love you. So if you literally work your butt off thinking that the world will finally recognize you as the Goddess you are because you’re skinny, or even that you’ll treat yourself better, you’re probably going to be disappointed. If you’re doing it because you like to challenge yourself and see what you’re capable of, then give ‘er – you’ll be amazed at what you can do. And sure, go take a couple of those shirtless selfies because your abs are hot and you worked hard for them – but then, pull your damn shirt down and get on with your life.
Next up, a glimpse of my provincials competition suit, and I talk about how my training has evolved this year (i.e., this is the summer of butt exercises).