This is Part II of a 3-part column I will be posting over the next several weeks. Comments are open, and private emails are also welcome so long as they are mindful and constructive. Please check back Friday, November 26th for the final installment of why I blame God for my poor body-image…
The Belly Of The Beast
When I’m introduced to someone I have not previously met, as I was at a social function over the weekend, I always cringe and brace myself if I’m introduced as a fitness trainer because I know what’s going to hit me next;
“Oh really…? That’s great! What can I do about my belly…? I just hate all this flab!”
It never fails. Notwithstanding that the woman who asked this question of me Friday evening was 5’9” and might have weighed all of 125 lbs. She looked like model, an athlete, or both, but was unhappy with her belly.
Because of my vocation, that question is ever-present in my life – regardless of the size and shape of the person asking it. When given a chance for advice, that belly question is asked by nearly everyone. It shows me that there are few people who have a completely positive body-image. We all have high desires, if not a high willingness to earn our bellies away.
A Judgment In The Belly Case
There are times when I think I look good, or as I often say, “ahead of the game for man near 50”. But those times are few and far between. More often than not I am critical of how I look. The fact that fitness is my livelihood fosters a continual sense of urgency when it comes to keeping my own body in shape; belly included. Expectations from the outside can be high…
I have often said;
“In the end, nobody will be judged by the shape of their abs, the tone of their arms, or whether they do sinister justice to a pair of jeans.”
Though I believe that value, and I try and live that value, my day-to-day living is not done “in the end” – it’s done in the middle where the human beings who surround one another, breathe in oxygen, and exhale judgment in equal portion – belly is often front and center of that judgment.
Religion Casts A Shadow
One of my (many) issues with western religions is that we are taught from an early age that the eyes of God are upon us and that we are being judged. Being taught from a young age that someone who I can’t see, and who I don’t even know truly exists is judging me, makes it quite easy to believe that all those around me who I can see, and can also see me, are also judging me. I suspect I’m not alone in this. In-turn, I tend to regularly judge myself, and I don’t often judge myself favorably. Expectations from the inside can be high…
That’s just what religion does, belly included.
Complemented By Compliments
The conundrum: I like getting compliments about how I look, though I don’t usually receive them well. Internally, the immediate sense of validation I receive from a compliment is instantly thwarted by that judgmental Roy inside of me who knows I could look better; less body-fat, larger muscles, a more athletic look, a more fit look, not good enough compared to the magazine covers, whatever. Besides, the person complimenting me is probably lying because they feel sorry for me.
I even try to compliment myself on occasion. I mean, I do workout hard, I workout consistently, and I eat pretty well that I look good – not that looking good matters. I might look in the mirror and like what I see, or parts of what I see – for a moment. It won’t take long though, to find more bad than good, and then negativity and depression take hold. By the way; the scientific term for that personality defect is, Being Jewish.
I try hard to remember, I am not on Earth to look good, I am here to do good. I force myself to take refuge inside that thought regularly, and it’s a very warm and comforting place. Refuge be damned though, it doesn’t take too many TV commercials, too many magazine covers, or to many movie trailers to remind me I don’t look as good as I should, and looking good should be a moral priority. I wonder if Stephen Hawking or Mother Theresa ever had internal discourse such as mine…?
To be continued…
Please check back next week for Part III of this column. I will attempt to make the case that God is to blame for all my body-image woes… and yours 🙂
Oh, and there is this from Steve Earle (Mike Coalson is to blame this week);