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.
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:
We don’t think we’re athletes because we see someone who looks like this:
And can do this:
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:”
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?
LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this! YES, we are all beautiful and we can all be athletes! AMEN, mama! I’ll be the first to jump on your bandwagon and proudly proclaim, YES, I am an athlete, and YES, I am beautiful, from the inside out. I want my daughters to grow up believing this, so I’ve got to show them the way by my own actions and attitudes. FABULOUS post, Allie!
YES!!!! Especially if you have girls – they need to be lead by example – and mama, you are one amazing example for ALL of us! Thanks so much Nicole and it’s great to have you back 🙂
I’m with nicole!!! Loved that Laura did that… and I’m dang proud to be girly AND an athlete!
Yes you are!! And you LIVE it. Thanks Emma.
Allie, thank you so much for sharing this and must say I needed o read this, because yes there are days, I do compare. Like you said we are taught pretty early on by society to do this. But you are right, we all have to try not to do this so much and huge thank you again for the reminder 🙂
We all need the reminder. When my friend showed me that Dove video, I cried. I just HAD to share it and, of course, compare it to my world. Thanks Janine!
This is the best post ever and you have inspired me to write one of my own. I do feel like an athlete, even though I may not look like ones I feel like one 100%!! I think it’s so hard for women to appreciate themselves when we are so bombarded by perfect figures and ways to lose weight. Both indicate that how we are isn’t good enough and we spend our entire lives trying to get there. I know I view myself from how my hubby sees me– e always says that he wishes I could see myself the way that he sees me. I can write a whole post on this. Lol. Your message is fantastic Allie. Thanks for writing this post!
You ARE and ATHLETE and a beautiful one at that! I hope you write a post about it too because I would love for you to elaborate and build on what I wrote. What a great idea too, to try and think of yourself the one a loved one does!!! Imagine if we could all walk around doing that?
Ha, you read my mind, literally…I’m in the middle of writing a post about being an athlete too 🙂 I actually do consider myself one, but ask me a year ago and I would have said no.
Great minds Sue – great minds!!! I love trying to inspire other women to BE that athlete – no matter what. Can’t wait to read what you have to say!
Yes! Love! I was one of hose that loved Lauren for that post and comparison! Why do we compare ourselves so critically to others (I am guilty too)? It takes a strong person to embrace who they are and strive to be better for reasons other than comparison! To teach our kids this we must first know it ourselves and then model it. Great post!
Absolutely. I love that you wrote “we must first KNOW it ourselves” – yes, and own it in every sense. Kids can smell bulls**t. 🙂 And Lauren Fleshman is just so many kinds of awesome.
Its what you wrote above that puts you on the awesome pedestal!!
If only we could truly see ourselves the way we are meant to ..♥
If only! You came a LONG way in becoming the athlete you knew you could. Love that about you!!
As far as appearance, I think I’m more cute than beautiful. But sometimes I realize that I must be at least a little beautiful on the inside because I have amazing, beautiful children. But other days I think I suck. It is what it is.
No, I don’t think of myself as an athlete but not because of appearance. It has to do with their mental toughness, ability to think of food as fuel, and things like that. I would love to develop and hone that though.
We all have our days of “blah” but yes, we can look to our children to see the beauty we created. I love that!
As for being an athlete – you have shown a lot of mental toughness in what you do every single day by taking care of your husband. If you could apply that to fitness, you would be golden! It also takes a big dose of “I really want that!”…and maybe you just don’t right now. Thanks Carla!
Great post Allie! I always had to remind myself that I am beautiful at least in my own way. Sometimes its hard when you see more lines on your face or the scale doesn’t quite tell you what you want. I strive to be the best athlete that I can be not someone else’s idea of what that is.
Exactly right! Be your own athlete. Find your own beauty. I see it every time I read your blog!
This floored me, Allie. Truly. That Dove video made me cry, even though I knew that the women were going to describe themselves as less beautiful than they truly were. Beautiful is a subjective word, so I think everyone is beautiful. Who is to say that someone is not? And I suppose I am my own athlete, although I want to be kinder to my body so it can be even more powerful.
Awesome post – thank you for writing it!
Thanks Dana. I cried too, even though (like you) I knew what was coming. The looks on the women’s faces when they saw how they described themselves just blew me away. So, so powerful.
The Dove video made me cry a lot. No, I don’t think I’m beautiful but in my career, I look for the beauty in EVERYONE so why can’t I look for it in myself? I don’t know.
I think everyone is an athlete, or at least has the capacity. Our bodies are meant for activity – that much is so obvious in the way we’re built and what happens when we don’t exercise.
And what happens when we do.
I cried too – and my friend showed it to me at the hair salon!!! Why would she do that to me? It’s very, very powerful.
And YES to our bodies having amazing capacities. Look at all the beautiful babies we make! 🙂
Allie, as always, an amazing post! Really thought provoking! I love how you explain your experience with the women you train being reluctant to call themselves athletes. I think women should consider themselves athletes! Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have delusions that I am going to be the next Gabby Douglas or heck, even come close to the athlete you are! But I do consider myself a reasonably fit person and when I ask myself, am I doing too much? I try to think of athletes and how much they train and how hard they push to consider whether I am doing enough. It is probably stupid but I kind of think it helps mentally.
I think the Dove campaign is amazing. I actually just saw on the news this morning that they are doing a new campaign with a similar message to the one you mention. Women were given a beauty patch and told to wear it and then asked how they felt. After saying how confident, beautiful and energized they felt. They then found out there were no active ingredients in the patch. Amazing marketing tool for beauty companies but also informative of the topic you raise today!
My husband says I have the worst body image! It’s hard to feel like we are ever enough. One thing that I give my mother a ton of credit for though is the fact that she told me constantly (and still does) how skinny I look. As a ballet dancer growing up, I think that was a huge factor in helping me avoid an eating disorder.
Anyway, this is a great post and I’m going to share!!
Thank you so much Britt. I’ll have to check out their latest campaign.
I love that your mom was so supportive and helped to shape a positive body image. I think it’s SO important for parents to do that. Mine were definitely not fitness role models, but they told me I was beautiful every single day and also that I could do anything I set my mind to. That goes a LONG way to becoming the person you are as an adult.
Start listening to your husband! You’re gorgeous, smart, strong and funny! Enjoy it and let it shine 🙂
Allie, this is amazing! I love this post so much. I get the same reaction from my training clients when I free to them as an athlete. That, and if I talk about them being or getting strong. Then I hear, “Well, I don’t want to be strong like a guy, I just want to be toned.” It makes me sad but I feel like eventually they come around to my way of thinking.
Keep working on them Carly and eventually they will see it for themselves. Thank you for all your support. Your clients are lucky to have you!
Great post and message, Allie. It makes me sad when women can’t think in those terms and I know the majority do not. I would never have been able to think of myself as an athlete until I got into triathlon–that sealed the deal for me and even when I’m not at my fittest, I know my potential and that counts for a lot.
Yes! Potential counts for everything. I feel at my worst when I swim in open water but, I keep getting in there and doing my best. It’s empowering.
Both women and athletes come in all shapes and sizes! You’re so right that because we continually see images of “perfect” women and athletes, we get a skewed image in our minds and think we need to look or be a certain way to earn that title. There is so much power in realizing that there’s nothing stopping us from seeing ourselves as beautiful athletes this very minute.
Absolutely. This very minute! Thanks Katie.
Such an awesome post, Allie!! Yes – I have considered myself an athlete for years – sometimes people look at me funny when I say that because they see a 44 year old mom but under that is a ferocious athlete!!!
On the beauty thing – no, I’ve always just thought I was very plain – not great hair, big crooked nose….but I’m also Ok with who I am!!
Let me tell you Kim – you are freaking gorgeous inside and out!…and one hell of an athlete.
Allie, I love you!!!
BTW – after your National race let’s hook up with Nicole and some others and do one of the 200 mile relays!!!
Kim, I love you too! That is one of the BEST ideas you’ve ever had. I am 100% IN!
OK – my sister-in-law is in, too!!!
Perfect! We’re building a team here…
It’s so true- we so rarely see ourselves as others see us, and it’s much easier to pick out the good in others. I loved Lauren’s honesty and vulnerability- if only other models took the same approach!
Exactly! As long as there are Laurens in the world, there’s hope.
You are so thought provoking lately! I loved that Lauren Fleshman post. I saw it a few months ago and thought “way to be brave”. I am honestly quite ambivalent on the matter. My only answer is sometimes. Sometimes I think I am beautiful or an athlete but the truth is most of the time I spend berating myself for one thing or another. Whenever I see this behavior in others I remind them to offer themselves the same compassion they give to others.
Thank you for being honest Tara. I think we all suffer from that. I know I do. Most days I don’t have time to give it much thought but, in my training especially, I’m trying to have a little more faith in my abilities.
Not sure why I’m getting so “deep” lately. Fridays post is sure to be light 🙂
My former company, Nike, believed that EVERYONE is an athlete.
So it’s sort of ingrained in my head. 🙂
Ha ha – right! Marketing at it’s finest.
When I look in the mirror I can say that I am happy with what I see (even in the buff). Would I change some things? Sure. But I am happy and proud of who I am.
I think that the older I get the less interested I am in comparing. I also think that when our bodies go through certain things in life, we appreciate them for those accomplishments. I no longer want to compare myself to others.
I struggle with comparison on a larger scale. I am in the process of losing a bunch of weight. I have lost 95 pounds so far. I still have some to go. What I am having trouble with is the term “obese”? At my current weight I am still considered obese and I just don’t see myself being in that category. Ninety-five pounds ago…sure, without a doubt.
Yes I see myself as an athlete. I felt that way as a kid and I think that it has just followed into adulthood. I wondering if the same goes for people who say “I am not athletic”…did they feel that way growing up too?
Love the DOVE commercials. Makes me cry when I watch them. We are so hard on ourselves.
Ladies, Love who you are. You ARE beautiful!
Thank you for sharing your story with us Sarah. I cannot imagine losing 95 pounds – wow!! What an amazing accomplishment.
I agree about getting older and comparing less. Who has time for it? I also have some pretty bad scars from having my boys but when I see them, I think of my kids, so how can that be bad?
I love this!! It is so interesting how different perception of ourselves is from reality! I recently looked back on pictures from grad school when I had lost 50lbs and I looked amazing! Did I realize it then and was I satisfied? Nope! I still wasn’t confident wearing shorts or going sleeveless, and it’s sad that I couldn’t fully grasp the results of all my hard work. I’m on my way back to that level of health and I’m interested to see how my confidence will be this time around. I expect my perception may still be slow to catch up with reality, but I don’t care as much about what people think since becoming a mom and I wonder how that will affect things…
Thank you for your sweet comment on my goals and your vote! I’m sharing this post and pinning because I love it!
Thanks so much Kristin! You could be the poster woman for believing in yourself. The amount of weight you have lost and the things you have achieved because of it, are not ones many women can do.
It is sad that we sometimes only appreciate something when we’re looking back on it. I struggle to “live in the moment” but at least I think about it more now then I used to!
Thanks again and GOOD LUCK with presenting 🙂
My old spin instructor used to always say that everyone in the room was an athlete, if you showed up – you were an athlete. And the women (because, let’s face it, it was all women and moms in my spin class) would kind of chuckle and hang their head like whatever – not me. I often felt like I was the only one in the room who believed that. It is so much about comparison because when we think of athlete, we think of the olympians and pros out there. But you’re absolutely right – we all are athletes.
Oh I’m so glad you believed it Christine! That spin instructor sounds amazing. I’m totally going to start saying that to my classes, and can’t believe I haven’t already. I usually tell them “This is the best part of your day!” when we’re deep into a hill climb or sprinting. They love to tease me about it…but they also remind me if I don’t say it.
Wow. The Dove commercial had me tear up. It’s crazy how we describe ourselves in the negative while strangers see the beauty. Makes me wonder how I would describe myself.
Calling myself an athlete took some getting used to. Of course, that’s what I was in high school when I played sports. But now, I just run and workout. I didn’t think that was really an athlete till I told myself – you train, you sweat – your an athlete.
Great post girl!
Good for you Angela! Yes, you ARE an athlete. It’s also funny that kids (young ones and high schoolers) are more apt to think of themselves as “athletes” or “signers” or almost anything else. I know my kids think they can do and be anything. I wonder when that starts to fade? Thanks, as always, for your input.
I have always seen myself as beautiful. My mother and family always told me so and I always believed it. I NOW consider myself an athlete since I started working out with my coach and it is a liberating feeling. I LOVE IT. I love the Dove commercial. Visiting from #sitssharefest.
That is fantastic! I also love that you were raised by strong, smart women who passed it on 🙂
Thanks for stopping by and sharing in the SITS love.