Most women experience the pressures of unrealistic beauty standards and this was happening well before Instagram came along and the mainstream media became what it is today. Learn more about the long-running history of unrealistic beauty standards in this fascinating article.
I’ve experienced this pressure to look a certain way my entire life. It’s been even more heightened with a career in the fitness industry. There was always pressure to fit a certain standard in the size, shape, and muscle tone of my body to be taken seriously or seen as someone worth learning from.
While dealing with these standards has been difficult to navigate, and still can be some days, I know in my heart that my worth is not defined by the way I look. Today, I want to share a few of the shifts I’ve made over the years to let go of unrealistic beauty standards and embrace who I am. I hope that my story might help you do the same.
Connecting With My Purpose
As a fitness professional, the pressure can be strong to use my body as a billboard. I hear comments all of the time about fitness instructors’ bodies as a measure of their expertise. It can be hard to avoid this way of thinking and internalize it.
When I feel this pressure arise, I remind myself of my purpose and why I do what I do. My job is to teach you how to connect to your body, move well, build strength, and restore alignment so you can feel better as you go through your days. I can do that no matter what my body looks like.
Despite knowing this logically, we’re surrounded by these unrealistic beauty standards everywhere we go. I have to remind myself of this often. Sometimes it feels as though I have to actively fight against that pressure in my mind and in my actions daily to avoid succumbing to it.
The Power of Staying Connected
You can know this consciously, and get caught up in these unrealistic beauty standards. When I stay connected to my purpose, however, it’s easier to remember that I don’t have to play along with the fitness industry’s focus on aesthetics to be successful. My purpose is to help women show up just as they are today and build strength and resiliency in their bodies and minds through the power of movement and connection to their bodies.
It’s THIS that has created our community of thousands of members around the world who want to choose grace over guilt and feel good in their bodies—not the number that shows up on the scale each day. It’s also this purpose that drove me to write my first book, Well to the Core.
My purpose is also connected to leading more people toward freedom and self-compassion: whether that’s my children, my friends, or our online community. When the pressure is rising to “look good in my workout clothes.” I remind myself that my job is to embody freedom and self-compassion so that others feel comfortable to do the same; to show up as they are today and believe that they don’t have to look a certain way to be worthy or valuable.
With young children, especially daughters, I want to be the best role model I can be. I want them to grow up feeling confident in their skin too. Remembering this helps me let go of those standards and find love for my authentic self, exactly as I am.
Leaning Into Gratitude
I practiced 30 days of gratitude leading up to my 30th birthday and it impacted my life in so many unexpected ways. One of the shifts I noticed was feeling the need to compare myself to others less often. Interestingly, something I learned after is that gratitude directs our attention away from social comparison, so it’s not surprising this happened.
This has helped me release those unrealistic beauty standards because I feel less compelled to compare myself to the people around me or other professionals in the space. As a result, it’s easier to embrace who I am more completely.
When those old beliefs around unrealistic beauty standards start pushing me back to that comparison habit, I focus on gratitude. I remember that I’m grateful for my body, my “twin skin” (the loose skin on my belly as a result of 4 full-term pregnancies including twins), and everything in my life that has absolutely nothing to do with how I look.
Cultivating and maintaining that attitude of gratitude lightens the figurative load and makes it easier to lean into what I know in my heart to be true.
Remembering the Reality
I often feel pressure to look flawless because there are so many fitness professionals and influencers with “ideal” physiques. Add to that the thick flowing hair, and wrinkle-free skin—you name it and you can find it. Not to mention, flawless appearances are everywhere to be found on social media, whether natural or through a filter. If I’m being honest, it’s easy to feel like I don’t measure up.
The reality is, that I know how much work goes into achieving that “perfect look,” like skipping margarita night with friends, avoiding foods I love, and spending hours in the salon getting extensions, botox, and manicures.
I’m not saying this to make anyone feel bad for the choices they make related to their appearance because I take pride in my appearance and love to feel beautiful and pulled together, too!
For me personally, when the pressure is too much to keep up with, but I want to purse beauty, I focus on staying aligned with my values. When I’m tempted to get caught in the comparison trap, this is especially helpful. Ultimately, this idea of “keeping up” is just not worth the sacrifices I have to make to do it—both mentally and physically.
Staying Aware of the Culture Around Me
I’m very clear on my values and my ultimate worth. Yet I still have to fight against that immense pressure to stay true to those values and what matters to me most. One of the ways I do that is by staying very aware of what I’m consuming and the culture I live and work in.
It’s so easy to consume content that’s damaging to our self-esteem and mental health. Even scarier is that with the rise of filters and AI, more and more of what we’re seeing isn’t even real. The problem is that humans don’t do a good job of deciphering between what’s real and fake.
In addition, because the brain changes with what is consumed consistently, the belief that you need to look a certain way only becomes more prominent with each image you see that aligns with those unrealistic beauty standards.
You have to be a conscious consumer everywhere you go, from stores to social media, to let go of what you’re told to look like and embrace who you truly are.
You Don’t Have to Accept Unrealistic Beauty Standards
It’s taken years of work to know that who I am, on any given day, is good enough. Some days, even now, it still takes work. I don’t know that we as women can ever fully let go of those unrealistic beauty standards. They’re so prevalent in our lives. However, that doesn’t mean they have to rule our lives. With conscious consumption, intentional gratitude, and connection to your purpose it is possible to live according to your own standards instead—and when we can do that, the pressure recedes and freedom appears.