I run with an awesome group of women. Seriously. These women are rocking life in so many ways. They are caring wives. Devoted mothers. Hardworking career women. Unbelievable friends.
Over the past few years, we’ve have logged hundreds of hours of running together. We’ve run in heat and cold, rain and sunshine, sleet, snow, and mud. On our runs, we talk about everything under the sun. The challenges of balancing work and home. The joys and struggles of motherhood. The random weird injuries that are nagging us. We work through our hardships and celebrate our successes.
Today, as usual, our conversation ebbed and flowed continually as we covered the miles. I’m not sure how, but eventually we got around to body image. As I’ve shared before, I struggle with maintaining a positive body image. It’s something that’s always in the back of my mind, but I chalked it up to my perfectionist personality and my background in gymnastics. I’ve always admired the women that I run with. They are fit, strong, and seem incredibly comfortable in their own skin. Imagine my surprise when several of them admitted to frequently judging or criticizing how they look when they glance in the mirror.
At first I was relieved – at least I’m not the only one who finds this challenging. I felt reassured that maybe it was common to question your own appearance. A few miles later, however, and I began to feel angry. I look at these women and find every single one of them to be stunningly beautiful, both inside and out. Their bodies are covered in lean muscle that they’ve developed after hours on the trails, days spent running hill repeats, logging laps on the track, and devoting time to core workouts and yoga. Their spirits shine through even brighter. They pick one another up, encourage one another, step in whenever someone needs something.
Excuse my language, but why the hell, with all these wonderful qualities, do they feel compelled to judge themselves based on the existence of a little cellulite, or a few stretch marks? Why do we celebrate the completion of a 3-hour run and then turn right around and focus on the few extra pounds we feel we are carrying? Why can we look at one another and see strength, and then look at ourselves and just see imperfections?
None of us are perfect, but I’ve yet to meet a single woman in the world who is. All of us are pretty damn awesome. Maybe it’s time we stopped looking for all of the ways that we are “less than” and started focusing on all of the wonderful ways that we shine. And maybe that begins by celebrating the amazing things that our bodies can do, not the tiny faults that we think we see. Because all of us are strong beyond belief. All of us are moms. And we want our kids to grow up knowing that strong is beautiful. Kindness is beautiful. Determination and courage are beautiful. And the actions we put out into the world matter much more than any reflection we see in a mirror.