The Myth of the Perfect Body
I have been an athlete most of my life and my body's capability has been important to me. When I was firefighter in the USMC my body had to be capable or I couldn't do my job. If I couldn't do my job people died. The pressure to be strong and capable was high. That has not made me immune, however, to the impossible and impractical quest for the perfect body.
We are bombarded with images of the perfect body. Women are supposed to be thin, skinny and not take up too much space. Men are supposed to be be big, but not too big. Who determines this anyway? More importantly, why do we believe it?
The reality is that there are so many variations of human physique that there's no possible way we can nail down one as the perfect one. It's an impossible quest and one that sets us up for failure and disappointment.
What if we traded the perfect aesthetic for what we are capable of doing? One of my favorite photo essays is Athlete by Howard Schatz. Howard photographed Olympians from all sports side by side. They're all at the absolute top of their physical capability, and none of them look alike. Here's a sample of one of my favorite panels.
They are tall and short. They are long legged and short legged. They are heavy and light. Some have visible muscles and some don't. ALL are strong. ALL are capable. ALL are beautiful. ALL are perfect because their bodies allow them to be the absolute best in their sport.
I had the great pleasure of meeting Olympic medalist Cheryl Haworth when I attended the master's training camp at the Olympic Training Center. She's the third from the left. She is an amazing human and is absolutely unapologetic for being strong and capable. I never once heard her make any disparaging remark about her body. She LOVES what her body is able to do. She WON an Olympic Medal because her body is perfect, for her.
Your body is perfect for you when it enables you to do everything you want it to do. NOT when it looks like what someone else has suggested to you. You are the one who determines your perfect body. Not the swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated, not Vogue, and no, not CrossFit either.
Perfection can be the body that is capable of going on a long backpacking trip. It's the body that can play with your kids all day. It's the body that can lift heavy things. It's the body that can ski all day. The body that can run, jump, throw, skip, and make you happy through the pure joy of movement. That's the perfect body.
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