Many of you may not know this but, “Find Your Inner Athlete” is the motto of VITA – Train for Life.  When I first opened my personal training business, I wanted every single person who walked though my doors to start thinking of themselves as an athlete.

Find Your Inner Athlete

I was shocked by the responses I received when I would say “We’re going to find your inner athlete!”  Most women completely shied away from the term saying things like “Athlete?  If you want to find that you’ll have to dig pretty deep!”  The mere word “athlete” threw them off guard and turned them defensive and often squirmy with the notion that they were anything like what the title implied.

These women worked out like animals and sweat buckets in my classes.  They collectively lost hundreds of pounds.  They ran races of all distances, swam for miles and biked from here to the moon in a years time, but still could not relate to being an “athlete.”

Why is it that we look at ourselves so critically?  Why are we so quick to dismiss our potential or possibilities?  One company set out to discover the answer by asking women one question: Do you think you’re beautiful?

I’m sure most of you are familiar with the company – Dove – and their Real Beauty campaign.  When they first polled women around the world only 4% said “yes” to that question.  Wow.

I’m sure if I polled the women training at VITA, and asked them if they thought they were an athlete, it would be even less.  Probably more like zero and/or just my male clients.

Here’s where it gets interesting.  Dove assembled a bunch of women and some men.  They paired them off and told them to briefly get to know one another.  Then, one by one, some of the women were sent in to see a sketch artist.

The sketch artist never saw their faces and the women never even knew what they were doing, and instead only answered questions like “Can you tell me about the shape of your face?,” or “How would you describe your eyes?”  After the artist had all he needed, the woman was dismissed and then the man or woman who was asked to get to know them was brought in…and then they were asked to describe the same person.  The results are fascinating:

How and why can we view ourselves so differently from the way others see us?

I conducted the same kind of experiment (without knowing it) at my studio all.the.time.  One woman would come in and rave about another’s abilities and dismiss their own – even if they were very similar.

THE PROBLEM:  In a word?  Comparison.  Women don’t think they’re beautiful because we’re told this is:

Penelope Cruz

Penelope Cruz

We don’t think we’re athletes because we see someone who looks like this:

Heather Mitts - USA Soccer.  I got this picture from Men's Health from an article titled "Hottest Female Athletes."  Point made.

Heather Mitts – USA Soccer. I got this picture from a Men’s Health article titled “Hottest Female Athletes.” Point made.

 

And can do this:

Allyson Felix - Olympic Sprinter

Allyson Felix – Olympic Sprinter

But what about when elite runner (and team Oiselle athlete) Lauren Fleshman wrote a blog post on Keeping It Real?  She showed the below side-by-side photos.  The runway shot on the left and then, a picture taken at track practice that same week with “my belly not turbo-flexed and sucked in:”

Keeping It Real

Keeping It Real

As you can imagine, she received a ton of praise from women everywhere, for showing us that even an elite athlete can have a not-so-flat stomach sometimes.  She’s brave, strong and obviously has zero self-esteem issues. Her mom must be very proud.

This is my takeaway for you:  

Don’t compare yourself to anyone else.  We are all beautiful and we can all be athletes.

We just have to choose to believe it.

 

Do you think you’re beautiful?

Do you think of yourself as an athlete?

What do you think about the Dove video or Lauren’s pictures?