When were you in the best shape ever? It feels like a straightforward question, usually involving a wistful look back into high school or college athletics before real life and refined carbs caught up to you. It harkens back to a time when your body didn’t have any shape to it all, or if it did it didn’t contain any of the imperfections of being human.
I work at an athletic clothing store between coaching and writing. I spend my time around humans trying to fit themselves into stretchy clothing. I see them wrangle with the ramifications needing one size instead of the one they think they should be. I see their energy shift after exiting a dressing room bathed in fluorescent lighting from above, a place that is literally impossible to leave with the same amount of self-esteem as you had going in.
My job is so much less about finding someone the right stretchy pants that won’t pill against a barbell as it is creating a space and providing a voice that enables them to emerge from the scenario unscathed.
We’re all assholes about our body. This isn’t a new notion. It’s either our arms could be smaller or better toned, or our chest broader, or our thighs less wonderfully aggressive. I’ve been a woman for the last thirty years. This notion and practice are not new to me. I am made of this. But what has been a shock is the inflection people use when talking about their bodies. More often than not, it’s presented as an apology.
I’m so sorry, my arms are too big for that shirt.
I’m so sorry, I’m too short to wear that.
I’m so sorry, I’m too big to even dream to wear that color
I had a woman ask me the other day, “what are the pants that will make my ass look amazing?” There are so many ways to answer this question. The seam of one curves around the top of your butt to create and enhance what is or isn’t already there. One is a little thicker to hide the soft indents scattered across any real person’s thighs. One has just the right amount of compression to lift and tone as much as any fabric can physically do.
And all of that is bullshit.
“Whatever pants make you feel like a badass. Those are the pants you want.” I told her. “Nothing else matters.”
I forget that rule all the time. Thinking instead that one less pound or just the right fabric will transform the way I, and thus others, feel about my body and thus myself. But it’s so much bigger and smaller than that. It isn’t about finding the magical piece of clothing that will hide all our imperfections or the workout regime that will make us toned and lean and thus deserving of something so essential to our humanness that emanates from someplace beneath our breastbone. Rather it’s how we show up in that body. It’s finding the piece of clothing that rearranges itself to fit us perfectly instead of the other way around. It’s about finding a way to move our body that enables us to take up space in our lives.
So let’s think about this going into the New Year…
What if best shape ever included how we felt in our bodies? What if we’re about building instead of always taking away and enjoying the curves we’ve created through work and through life?
What if it included now, this body right here, the one that is continuously shifting. What if it were the body not stuck in the mud of “should” or “will be,” but instead is a mirror to and a participant in the beautiful craziness of this life.
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