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Originally posted July 11, 2019

‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’, or so the saying goes.

The language of advertising as far as I can remember has reinforced the impression that the ideal female should be stick thin, scantily clad, and above all, submissive.

Who are you?

Everybody struggles to develop a sense of security, a sense of personal identity. But most of us end up constantly glancing around to see if we measure up to those comparable around us. We end up hating ourselves for it, especially if we can see exactly what buttons the advertisers are pushing. But many of us buy into the images, including myself, just enough to wish we could do it all.

Could I be that thin? Could I be that happy? Could I be that confident?

I ended up telling myself that I wasn’t affected by media or advertising. I found myself spending astronomical amounts of money on the latest vogue without any achieved benefit. I found the problem with buying into that image is that depending on the woman’s body type, a model like weight isn’t just a difficult goal, it can be an unhealthy one.

In the last several years, there has been a shift in the way we (women) are viewing our bodies.

Mainstream popularity in Bodybuilding (Weightlifting), Strong Man (Women) and CrossFit and has put a spotlight on ‘strong women’. More and more women have discovered that lifting heavy not only improves our health but also our self-confidence and the way we perceive our bodies.

A number of published medical studies have identified “Strength training is associated with significant improvements in several dimensions of body image, health-related quality of life,  physical activity behaviours, satisfaction, and comfort.” Ref1

Further, women who regularly participate in weightlifting had significantly higher general well-being scores when compared with people who do not Ref2. Women involved in weightlifting lose more body fat and increase muscle mass compared to those that do not.

I got so wrapped up in the aesthetics that I overlooked the amazing feats my body could accomplish.

Weightlifting can be intimidating for anyone, but especially women.

I am fortunate to have surrounded myself with powerful, strong and independent women who are still feminine. I was initially fearful that if I started to lift weights then all my femininity would disappear.

Part of the issue is how the media and women have defined beauty, as the introduction identified. For those who are already self-conscious, even just stepping into a gym can be a huge emotional obstacle.

I suffered from a poor self-image. I was focusing on how I looked as defined by the mainstream media. However, with the right support and community (like you would find in CrossFit Norsemen), goals can begin to shift.

Whilst losing weight was a nice side effect of lifting, I found I gained a new emotional strength committing myself to it. I found my motivation became lifting heavier and becoming stronger rather than fitting into a smaller dress size. We need to place an increased value on strength, health, and personal achievement rather than arbitrary features like weight.

My confidence grew in seeing and achieving goals that had previously not been reached. I was happy in my own skin.

Becoming stronger externally had a very tangible impact on my mental toughness and emotional endurance. When you are strong on the outside, you feel as though you can surmount and achieve anything you set your mind to.

Ref: A study published through the National Library of Medicine entitled “Strength Training Improves Body Image and Physical Activity Behaviours among Midlife and Older Rural Women

Ref 2: Another published study entitled “Effects of weight training on the emotional well-being and body image of females” looked at the difference in training and how it impacts the confidence of women.