Today at the gym there was someone new. Since I work out at 5 a.m. and see the same people every day, it is easy to spot a new person. This girl definitely stood out because she is ripped. Her muscle definition is awesome. Boy, I wish I looked like that.
We’ve all done it: checked out the girl (or guy) next to us on the peck deck or treadmill and compared our bodies to theirs. (I wish I had those biceps, or Why doesn’t my butt look like that?) It is human nature to compare and obsess about our own “perceived” physical inadequacies.
As I continued to check this new girl out, I started to notice that her body type was completely different from mine. Even though she has an amazing body that I wish I had, my body could never look like that – ever. Not because of lack of trying, but because of genetics.
I started to appreciate my own physique as well as hers, but my feelings of inadequacy went away.
It is really important to recognize and embrace the genetic deck of cards you’re shuffling. Once you realize what you can and can’t change about your body, it will become easier to positively visualize your physical potential.
First, know your body type. You’ve heard it before: There are three body types: mesomorph, ectomorph, and endomorph. Ectomorphs are thin, mesomorphs are more muscular, and endomorphs tend to be on the overweight side. Most people straddle two categories, such as a meso-endomorph, or meso-ectomorph. You might think you can figure out what body type you are simply by looking at yourself, but it’s never really that easy. Next time you are at the doctor’s office, ask your doctor which body type you fall under and you might just be surprised.
Another factor that affects your figure is bone size. Get a quick general assessment of your bone structure by wrapping your hand around your wrist. If your fingers don’t touch, you’re probably big boned; if they just touch, you’re medium-boned; if they overlap, you’re likely small-boned. Obviously, you can’t change the size of the bones you were born with, but you can let your bone size be a guide to your body weight. In general, if you’re smaller-boned, you should be at the lighter end of the weight range for your height; bigger-boned people may fall at the top weight range for their height… and this is okay.
Now that you know what you’re dealing with physiologically, here are some ways to boost your mental body image:
1. Pick appropriate body role models. Men who grew up hoping to have Arnold’s buff build—but ended up slightly smaller—should work towards a more reasonable (but still healthy) body, like Lance Armstrong. If a woman were big-boned, she’d be setting herself up for certain disappointment by aspiring to look like Jennifer Anniston. Instead, she might want to aim for a body more like Tyra Banks, who’s body type may be more similar to hers.
2. Separate how you feel about your body from how you feel about other things that are going on in your life. Feeling dissatisfied with your career or relationship can make it easier to feel negatively about your body.
3. Look at your parents and grandparents for a guide to your body’s potential. If you come from a long line of jockeys, football may not be your best sport. Pick an activity that reflects and highlights your talents.
4. Ask yourself if you’ve ever been attracted to or fallen in love with someone who doesn’t have the “perfect” body. It’s important to challenge yourself when you get into the train of thought that you have to look perfect; you attract people and are attracted to people not because of perfection but because of a number of things.
5. Give your self-esteem a boost. Self-esteem isn’t about men and women talking about how special they are. It’s about success. Can you successfully handle your emotions, your goals? The better we can handle life, the less we make our body an exaggerated issue. It’s easy to project the bad feelings you have about yourself onto your body.
6. Determine your body image by the positive body behaviors you engage in each day. Recognize the things you do that make you feel good about yourself. That might be buying a healthy lunch instead of opting for junk food, exercising, moisturizing your skin faithfully, taking some quiet time for yourself, anything that makes you feel good about yourself.