Frisky Rant: Actually, I Don’t Find Your “Inspirational” Workout Pics Inspiring At All
Last week, I wrote about Jen Selter, a 20-year-old Long Island woman who supposedly has the “best butt on Instagram.” While Jen does indeed have a fantastic derriere, I was more interested in what she told the New York Post about her booty pics: they are inspiring. I quote: “If [my Instagram account] motivates people to get their butts up and go to the gym, why not?” Jen Selter’s mom echoed the same sentiment. “I’m very proud of her because this is a girl who didn’t want to go to college, and she was able to build up this social media in such a way that she has become famous and she is an inspiration and motivation for so many people,” her mom said.
There are a few other fitness buffs who’ve called themselves inspirational to other women. A few months ago, Lea-Ann Ellison drew the Internet’s ire for posing for photos doing Crossfit training while eight months pregnant, specifically lifting heavy weights. In a post on Facebook, she wrote:
I can’t believe this photo has caused this much stir but it makes me hopeful that it will inspire other strong healthy moms to continue on doing what they love. Pregnancy is not an illness! Get it Moms!
Then, of course, there is Maria Kang, a mother of three young children who posted a picture of herself in a bikini alongside her kids with the tag line, ‘What’s your excuse?’ “I wanted to inspire people,” Maria told Yahoo Shine. “I wanted to say, ‘I know you think you don’t have time if you have kids. But if I can do it, you can do it, too.'”
It’s curious to me that all three of these women describe sharing pictures of their bodies or their workouts as “inspirational.” Their bodies are gorgeous, of course. On an aesthetic level, I admire what they have. Who wouldn’t?
But honestly, when it comes to my own health and self-worth, I’m not actually inspired by anyone else’s body either positively or negatively. I guess you could say I’m inspired by myself. I joined a gym in November (rather, I rejoined a gym — I’ve been a member of a gym off and on for years) and I’ve been working out a few times a week. My two main reasons for rejoining were overwhelming feelings of sluggishness and tiredness and a desire to lose some weight around my belly. Fundamentally, I still love my body, feel confident while naked and feel adored and admired by my husband; I simply wanted to feel better on a day-to-day basis in order to enjoy life more, as well as fit into my favorite cute clothes in the spring and summer. I’ve been eating healthier as well, and working out, I hope, will only amplify those benefits.
The first couple workouts were exhausting. I won’t pretend I enjoyed them. But now six weeks in, I feel a rush of endorphins during and after a workout. I feel like I have more energy. I sleep more soundly at night. Those good feelings — and the pop music in my “Gym” playlist — are what motivate me to sweat buckets all over my sports bra. I am sorry to report that when I need motivation to go to the gym, someone else’s butt or flat belly have literally never crossed my mind … ever.
Because, really, how “inspirational” should another woman’s body really be? “If I can do it, you can, too” has its limits. How am I supposed to relate to an ex-pageant queen like Maria Kang, or a woman who can afford to train Crossfit like Lea-Ann Ellison, or a professional butt model like Jen Selter? Our bodies could not be more different other than the fact that we’re all biologically women. We all have different beginning results, different back stories, different health issues, and will have very, very different end results. For example, I’m pear/hourglass-shaped; I carry extra weight around my belly; I take antidepressants; and I’m on the birth control pill. Unless there’s an “inspirational” woman out there with a body profile similar to mine, being inspired by her weight loss and/or body sculpting is a moot point.
My workout success story will probably mean dropping a few dress sizes, but still having a pear-shaped body and some tummy paunch. I’m okay with this. I realize, rationally, that Maria Kang’s body will be just as elusive for me — as it will be for most of us — as having Rihanna’s wardrobe or Elizabeth Taylor’s jewels. And that’s okay, too. If I became obsessed with owning millions of dollars in designer duds, I would hope someone would shake me awake.
But I doubt anyone would shake me awake if I voiced a serious intent to become a butt model. They might actually cheer me on. Why is that? Because we live in a thin- and hotness-worshipping culture which prizes physical self-improvement for women above all else and therefore, it’s socially acceptable to pretend that having a flat belly after popping out three kids is attainable for the average woman. So, really, it’s no wonder that the thin- and hotness-worshipped congratulate themselves. Claiming pictures of your flat belly or your butt are “inspirational” is just a socially appropriate way to gloat under the auspices of doing a service to other women. It’s not bragging — it’s inspiring! Maybe they are the ones who need to be shaken and told, “Most of us are never, ever going to look like you.”
If there’s any woman who is my workout inspiration, I guess she would be myself.
[Image of women working out via Shutterstock]