On Body Image, Ashton Kutcher, And A New Challenge

I’m taking a break from my regular Ukraine-centric postings to share a topic that has been on my mind lately.

Several weeks ago, after a summer beach weekend, a friend said to me (about another person we know):

“Her body is really disappointing. Your body is better than hers.”

I was stunned.

My first thoughts were:

  1. Oh, so my body is only better than disappointing, eh?
  2. Hmmmm, is my body ‘better’ than hers?
  3. When did I agree to join a swimsuit competition??
  4. Wait, what gives YOU the right to judge me (and her!)?

To my credit, I did not get overly angry about this exchange. I simply asked my friend to refrain from ever again commenting on my body or comparing me to someone else. To their credit, A sincere apology was given, and I know the comment was not meant to offend me.

And yet…

A few weeks later, I noticed that getting back into a running routine had affected my body. I then caught myself glimpsing in the mirror more often, trying to figure out if I indeed had lost weight/looked smaller/gained muscle/etc., etc.

Then this video entered my life (he has a lot of good stuff to say, but the part that I’m referring to today is between 2:46 – 3:32).

Who would have thought that a random bad conversation and a video of Ashton Kutcher would have set my mind abuzz with thoughts about body image?

Here are my thoughts on this:

A)     American society (and many other societies, too) encourage men and women to constantly judge each other. Without sounding preachy, I will simply say that there is a lot of negative advertising that promotes this thought in order to get people to buy stuff.

B)      There is also this pervasive idea that women should look beautiful for others, which feeds into an idea that someone’s body/looks/appearance could be ‘disappointing.’ Frankly, this idea is foolish, at best, and destructive, at worst.

  • Someone not following through on commitments? Definitely disappointing. Your favorite team losing an easy game? Totally disappointing. Someone not look the way you thought they would? Time for you to reconsider your attitude and beliefs.

So, what is the end result of all this?

I reconsidered my own attitudes and beliefs, too.

I’m trying to stop looking at the skin in the mirror, and instead focus on what I’ve done to be smarter, on the thoughtful moments I’ve shared with others, and on how I can continue to serve others. Because he’s right. Everything else is crap.

I’m trying to commit myself to commenting less on other peoples’ appearances. Even when it’s a positive comment. Because I could be telling them how awesome they are in the ways that matter most. And while I don’t remember people’s outfits, hairstyles, and the approximate number that is on their scale, I do remember when they are thoughtful. And generous. And smart.

Every day, I try to remind myself that running and exercising is not about my outward appearance. It’s about the runner’s high. It’s about spending time outside. It’s about my inner health. It’s about doing something I love, and spending some quiet time with only myself and the path. It’s about challenge, and overcoming that challenge.

Oh, and a new challenge? (Because I had to end this with a surprise and with something positive).

I signed up for the Prague Marathon. It will be my first marathon. Sunday, May 11, 2014. My training program officially begins in the depths of winter, in January. Approximately 226 days from today, according to the marathon website. Bring it on! :)

 

Be smart. Be thoughtful. Be generous.

Happy to take any comments!