Recently someone made the above meme from a quote in one of my old blog posts, the topic of which was my appreciation for a big juicy butt. Then a few weeks later, I posted this Facebook and Instagram:
After sharing each of the above two items, I got tons of messages from women enthusiastically thanking and cheering me for them. I thought a lot about why these messages resonated so strongly with women, and decided to share what I came up with.
Wanting to “look like” something usually means achieving an external physical ideal that other people can see. Aesthetic goals typically involve hitting a certain weight, measurements, body fat percentage, or description of shape. But I stated my aesthetic goal as a representation of what I want to feel like. I made my aesthetic goals about my personal experience and my personal values, instead of the experience and values of those who are viewing me.
Through cultural conditioning, especially marketing and media, women are taught from a young age that we exist to be looked at. We are taught that our bodies are for public consumption, and that by not achieving a certain physical ideal, we have let down the people who were expecting to objectify and sexualize us, and we should feel shame. Ironically however, we are blamed and shamed equally (if not more so) for fitting any standard of hotness that makes men desire us. On all ends of this horrible and misogynistic spectrum, the automatic assumption is that women are for looking at by others.
Is it possible that there is nothing more rebellious nowadays than a woman who claims the experience of having a body as being only for herself?
Maybe, and I think women are starting to notice. I believe we are hitting a critical mass of female body shame and hatred, and something about my words hit a nerve with women who are starting to realize something:
We do not have to look a certain way to earn our worth.
Our bodies are more than stylish outfits for our bones. Your body is a vehicle for inner transformation, a powerful tool for gauging what’s going on with you, and an accurate messenger about what you need. By altering your relationship to your body through movement and self care, and you will undoubtedly transform both inside and out.
Personally, I know too much about how training affects our aesthetic outcomes to simply disregard aesthetics completely. Plus if I’m being completely honest with myself, I absolutely adore certain aesthetic outcomes of training. I love lifting weights and getting stronger, so external changes will occur even if I’m not working to “improve” or change anything. But ya know what? It’s ok to enjoy that. (Trust me, I am not above texting photos of my abs to my boyfriend.) The way I train is aligned with both how I prefer to feel and how I prefer to look, and that’s not an accident.
So what are my REAL “aesthetic goals?”
1. I want to look like a strength coach, a walking billboard for my message of consistency and joy through movement. Then again “strength coaches” come in all shapes and sizes, and it’s even more important to me to be walking billboard for non-judgement, body acceptance, and letting go of the outcome.
2. I want to spend the next 25 years adding to the density of my muscles, so that when Mother Nature starts waving her magic muscle-eraser wand, it takes her another 25 years to make a dent.
3. I want to see how round and firm my butt can get. I’m genuinely curious, because there is no better example on my body to showcase where genetics stop and hard work starts.
4. I want to be strong as hell for when I decide to have babies. I’ll want that base of strength, health, and fitness to be firmly in place, so I can soften and focus on the inner work of calling a new soul to earth, and being a good home for a baby.
5. I want to look like someone who treats her body not just like a temple, but also like a playground, a vehicle, a sculpture, a teammate, and a guide. When you look at me I want my body and my soul to be so blurred together that you’re not sure where one stops and the other starts.
6. I want to look like a person who takes no shit and holds no grudges. I want to look like a person who endlessly seeks connection, and fiercely defends love. I want my life force to show up in my grip strength; passion in my posture. I want my history to be written in my bones and my future to shine lightly through my skin. I want to look like someone whose body is forged of courage and dreams.
7. What kind of circumference measurements does an approachable goddess have? What’s the body fat percentage of an enlightened street rat? I want to look like me. As my focus and priorities shift throughout life, in whatever way I need for continuous inner growth and joy, I want my body to reflect that.
Because here’s the kicker…
It’s going to anyway. I’m just choosing to join that journey consciously, instead of being brought along for the ride kicking and screaming.
By consciously allowing (and expecting) my body to always reflect the experience of being me, I avoid being a victim to those changes as they happen. From the empowered driver’s seat of this journey, I can gain a little fat when I want to honor my inner feminine goddess, and I can crush it under a barbell when I want to honor my inner alpha leader.
I know some of you are reading this and thinking “That’s all very well and good for you, but no matter what’s going on in my life, I want to look like a supermodel!” If that’s you, then I humbly suggest you hunker down and prepare for a long life of anger, pain, and body hatred.
Because your body is smart. It’s always going to reflect what’s going on with you. It’s supposed to! That’s why the only way to make sustainable long term changes to your body is to change “what’s going on with you;” aka what your lifestyle habits, self care, nourishment, values, and priorities all look like at any given time. Using willpower to make external changes never lasts for long, because you didn’t change what was going on with you. You skipped all the steps that make those changes stick, and you didn’t make those changes a part of who you are.
Furthermore, even when you do figure out how to create sustainable results, things will still shift around! Because time goes on and life happens, and neither your body nor your life are stagnant. (And thank goodness!)
By reclaiming your aesthetic goals and making them about the experience of being YOU, instead of the experience of those who get to look at you, you also reclaim your power. By aligning your external goals with your internal goals, you usher in more self-acceptance, self-love, and self-trust. And who isn’t looking for more of that?
I am passionate about helping women learn to love their bodies, but loving your body as a woman in our culture isn’t easy, as you know.
That’s why I created the Body Image Alchemy Blueprint:
to help women explore and address the actual blocks that get in the way of truly loving and accepting yourself. If you want to love and accept your body no matter how it looks, but don’t know where to start, this course is for you.