My boyfriend recently took me to a body building competition to cheer on our friend Marnie Lynn. Knowing that Marnie, who is easily an "11", was going to be wearing nothing more than a bikini up on the stage brought on a solid case of the insecurities.
Those insecurities grew stronger when I saw the forty or so women walking around flaunting their perfect bods while I tried to suck in my belly full of jelly. Literally, I had just eaten a raspberry filled pastry on our way to the event.
I felt even worse when the over-50 women took to the stage and looked better than I did when I was a three-sport athlete. I tried to find a flaw, but none of them sported a geographical map, like I do after carrying children, on their stomachs. Adding salt to the wound, most of these women were mothers themselves with their offspring cheering for them in the crowd.
I had no idea what the judging criteria was, but turned and looked at my beau with an incredulous look when the crowd started to yell out things like, "spread them!"
He assured me he hadn't taken me to some sort of pornographic event, but that those were coaches asking their athletes to spread their "lats."
I breathed a sigh of relief.
When Marnie hit the stage, she looked ripped and instead of feeling insecure I suddenly realized just how hard she, and the other women, worked to achieve their flawless bodies.
It takes a ton of discipline to create the type of muscles the competitors put on display. Not to mention the cahones it takes to put it all out there, to be literally judged on your efforts.
I didn't understand a lot of what was happening as I watched, but developed an appreciation for the sport. Even better, instead of comparing myself and feeling bad about my less-than-perfect body, I felt okay. I felt proud of Marnie for her hard work. Instead of jealousy, I experienced admiration.
We all come in different shapes and sizes. You can manipulate your body to look a certain way, but you can also do that to your heart and brain, too. Not everyone is cut out to be a body builder--our strengths come in other forms.
There is a certain irony that, by watching a sport based on subjective judging, I began to realize there are many different ways to express ourselves that should be appreciated. Whether that be singing, writing, art, sports, engineering, crunching numbers, providing administrative support, nursing, or gardening--everyone has a talent that if tapped into can yield results.
Watching Marnie strut her stuff inspired me to the best I can. I may not hit the gym, but I can continue to practice my writing, to work hard at being a good mother, friend and lover.
It's all about finding your strengths and, like Marnie, flaunting with confidence what you've got.