The Ugly Truth About Fitness and Beauty Competitions
by Craig Nielson
Certified Professional Life Coach
Health and beauty always seem to always go together, as if they were the same. However what is promoted in our culture as health and beauty mostly revolves around outer appearance and has little to do with actual health or real beauty.
Weeks before the broadcasting of beauty pageants such as Miss USA and Miss America, we see countless promotional advertisements showing clips of the contestants with particular emphasis on the swimsuit competition. During the broadcast most of the time is spent on how they look in a swimsuits, and how they look in a nightgowns. Then they whittle down who looks best and of those who remain in the competition we get to see a little about their talents in the performing arts. In the end we give the few left standing a minute or so to tell us little about what they think of matters.
Commercials during the broadcast geared towards women are mostly for hair products, cosmetics, plastic surgery and weight loss programs. On a subliminal level the advertisers are telling you "you can look like them (the contestants) too." The contestants however achieve their look through extreme primping and training. They represent a very small proportion of the female population and not the norm. Yet many women aspire to achieve the look of perfection and feel insecure when they compare themselves to those who seem to have it.
For a look at fitness competitions I consulted with my Aphrodite colleague and former NPC Champion Lindzie St. Martin. Training for a fitness competition does have its benefits. In the process you learn how to eat clean and to break habits of eating unhealthy foods. You break personal barriers by pushing your body beyond limitations and achieve a goal you previously thought would be unattainable. You also learn how to conquer fear by becoming vulnerable when you get on stage in a bikini and expose yourself to the scrutiny of strangers.
However, what it takes to become an NPC champion, or even just a competitor, requires a very intense regiment of physical training and dieting. The image of the women on stage at a fitness competition is the extreme. It is not sustainable. For some however this extreme becomes a sense of identity. You can get caught up in the attention and the positive comments people give you on how great you look. This can create a dynamic of needing to maintain this image as a sense of validation.
It is a mistake to think that attaining a certain external image of yourself with give you more self confidence. If you believe that, then you will always be a slave to maintaining that sense of perfection. Real self-confidence is that, self confidence. The belief that you are perfect just the way you are right here, right now, and that there is nothing you can't do. What appears on the outside is just the accessories. Your beauty shown on the outside is a reflection of the inside.
Maybe one day we will actually have a competition that celebrates women for what they say and what they do. Where we get to know things like, how she dealt with adversity, how she has overcome obstacles and trials in her life. How has she made a different in the world? What has she accomplished? How has she been a good mother, wife, sister, friend, co-worker? What defines her aside from being someone nice to look at? These are the things that define who you are and the things you will be known and remembered for.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to look your best. Hopefully your appearance on the outside is a true reflection of what is on the inside. Being physically healthy will benefit you for a lifetime and the beauty of your heart and soul that radiates from your spirit will be remembered in your legacy.
Training and working out is a form a self care. When you train and work out do it for yourself, not to impress someone else. The same applies to eating healthy. Eat healthy because you understand that doing so brings nourishment and energy to the body you love.