I want to talk to you about what's real versus what our mental demons tell us is "real."
So much of our internal dialogue - the voices whispering that we're not good enough, pretty enough, smart enough, skinny enough - is influenced by the constant media barrage we are hit with on a daily basis. What we see in print, on film, in TV, even social media sites isn't "real." Sure, the models and celebrities are real people, but their images frozen in time in that magazine are not consistent with reality. They've been adjusted and manipulated multiple times with special attention paid to lighting, camera angles, positioning, camera focus, and posing. Even after the final shot is captured, most pictures are sent through an extensive photo altering process. But, that's all okay because photography, film, and modeling are all arts in and of themselves.
The problem isn't with the images. The problem lies in what our mental demons do with these images. From the moment we wake up until our heads hit the pillow, we are bombarded with images of the beautiful. We really can't escape them. And, the danger comes because we don't even realize what is happening until it is too late. As our eyes take in this steady stream of carefully calculated and adjusted images, our mental demons latch onto them and start to see them as "real," as the norm. They become the standard that we hold ourselves to. Our demons tell us we are worthless if we don't measure up. We are so far below the world's standards of beauty...how can we ever hope to be "good enough?"
Time for a reality check. Let's put things into perspective for our demons, shall we? How "real" are these supermodels and their images of perfection we see all over the place? Not to discredit the models and their talent for what they do, but sometimes we need to show our demons that the "real" stuff lies underneath all the makeup and special effects. The images we see in film and print are just art. But, that's not how the models walk around looking in their normal, daily lives. Click the button below to see for yourself.
Then there are the fitness models. These people make photo shoots and fitness competitions a full-time job. The meal prep alone takes tons of planning and time not to mention the hours they log in the gym every day. Just like dancers, they have a certain "line" to work for and must have the muscle control to hit it in their poses. Getting ready for shoots or competitions usually involves a several month cycle of putting on muscle mass followed by shedding fat. It even comes down to a science of salt and water manipulation in the final days leading up to the big day. They look ripped and shredded for the time it takes to get the pictures taken care of, but by the time they re-hydrate and eat afterwards, their bodies look noticeably different immediately.
The important point is that they don't walk around shredded 24/7, 365 days a year. They stay within a range year-round so they can cut when they need to, but maintaining that low level of body fat is not sustainable or healthy for the long-term. Again, this isn't meant to discredit the models. They are amazing artists with the ability to shape their bodies and the hardcore discipline to stick with a routine, crush themselves in the weight room, and spend countless hours with meal planning. I'm bringing this to your attention to show you how warped our perceptions of what is "real" can get...and how impossibly high we set the standards for ourselves.
Let me share something with you. I do not consider myself a model. But, I have done enough fitness and dance shoots to know all the preparation that goes into capturing the desired images. Besides the hardcore weight training sessions in the months leading up to the shoot to sculpt my muscles, I also follow a really strict eating plan for at least 3 weeks. We are talking super strict and not fun here. Then, there's the final touches like fresh highlights, hair style, clothing, and makeup application that need to be on pointe.
During the actual shoot, there's lots of muscle cramping from flexing and contorting in just the right way to give the photographer the lines needed. Even things like facial expressions are carefully coached (I never knew I had so many muscles in my face until I started doing these shoots!). This is NOT natural, just-be-yourself type of posing here. The photographer usually has an assistant to coax the lighting with reflective shields and lamps and to set special effects (wind, water, ect.). My point is, a LOT goes into these shoots. While I may have the tools to sculpt my body so I can get my abs to pop for the shoot, I openly admit that I don't walk around with that level of leanness in my normal, everyday life (and just to prove it, I've included this pic of my dieted-down abs versus my normal, everyday abs). Maintaining that is unsustainable, unhealthy, and doesn't leave me much room for pleasure. And I'm not interested in a life without pleasure;)
Do I struggle with accepting myself when I'm not at my leanest or when I first wake up in the morning with no makeup on and crazy blonde bed head? Yes. Sometimes. I'm working on it. But, at least I know it partially comes from comparing myself to the models out there and their images of perfection that my demons assume are "real." So, I've spent years unpacking these mental demons and figuring out what I really want out of life. And I can tell you one thing for sure - I don't want a life where I feel miserable, deprived, depressed, and irritable constantly as a price for maintaining perfect 6-pack abs. And, I don't want to hide myself under a rock anymore because I'm afraid my "beauty" won't measure up to a supermodel's. Simply remembering that it's ridiculous to compare myself to images in the media that have all been frozen in time, retouched, and carefully manipulated helps adjust my reality.
The next time you find your mental demons whispering in your ear that you're too fat, or too ugly, or too short, or too tall...ask yourself who you are comparing yourself to. Most likely it is these images of "perfection" bombarding you from the media. Then, remind yourself that these images are not "real"...they're art. Next, gently tell your demons that your self-worth does not come from comparing yourself to an outside source anyway...it comes from within. And, the only way you are going to realize the true value of your self-worth is by searching inside for who you are and who you want to be in this world. You'll never find that with your demons constantly tearing you down, taunting that your're not "good enough." How do you get from here to self-love, fulfillment, and unbreakable self-worth? It's a non-linear process, and it takes time. But one thing's for sure - these demons aren't helping you on any level whatsoever. Yes, finding your self-worth and loving the unique person that you are - body, mind, and spirit - is a journey. But it's worth fighting for. You are worth fighting for.