After spending the long holiday weekend in Death Valley I wanted to write about all the hikes we went on, the things we saw, the dunes, and the canyons, the sunsets, and the rawness of the largest national park in the lower 48. Eventually I will get to filling you in but something happened while on the trip that I feel is important to share while it is still fresh in my mind. I had a bit of a crisis on this trip. It was not because of the cold or the heat or being intimidated by a hike; that rarely happens to my trail worn bones. No, I had a melt down after seeing a photo of myself clad in just my shorts and sports bra. We had gotten to Eureka dunes near sunset and ran up the 680 foot dunes to watch the sun go down. My husband snapped a few photos of me as I hiked up the sandy sentinels. As we marched up I was happy, smiling, breathing heavy and enjoying the beautiful views. But when I looked at the photos he took all I could think was how I looked fat. My thighs looked too big to be the thighs of a hiker, my abs looked soft, not the abs of a climber. The photo he took of me in a variation of king pigeon pose showed off fat on my belly and cellulite on my legs, not a lean yogi. I did not look like the woman I thought I should look like and I let this bother me for the rest of our trip.
Those photos bothered me so much because the woman in those pictures did not fit with the stereotype of what I thought an avid outdoor woman should look like. Where were the long thin legs, the rock hard abs, the thin muscular arms. The truth is they were all there covered in sweat and sand from our sprint up the dunes, I was just to blind to see them. I am my harshest critic, as most people are, and I completely discredited myself and all the things that I have accomplished in my life. All because of a few silly photos.
I’m not sharing this because I want compliments, I’m not looking for comments telling I am beautiful. I’m sharing this because I have felt this way before, I will probably feel this way again in the future and I know other woman and men feel exactly the same way. We need to stop being so hard on ourselves, we need to start being proud of what our bodies do for us. It’s not simply a matter of excepting and loving your body; it’s also focusing on what your body can do, and where it can take you. We have so much pressure on us to look a certain way, to fit a mold. Sometimes it is harder to get out of that funk than it is to scale a mountain.
I’ve read a lot of blog posts and online articles on this subject and most pieces get an outpouring of support, people share it and feel inspired but then go right back to feeling bad about themselves. Aren’t we missing the point? We should be judging ourselves on our achievements or how we feel after a long hike to a beautiful summit. Your body is the body that got you to the top of that mountain or to the end of the finish line. It is strong and it deserves your admiration.
Those photos of me are the photos of an avid outdoors woman. She climbs, she skis, she gets bloody and sweaty and sore and loves every minute of it. She earns her peaks with strong legs and a strong back, she is kind and passionate about the world around her. What does the avid outdoors woman or man look like? They look like you, they look like me, they look like anyone willing to lace up a pair of hiking boots and get to work.
So next time you see that unflattering photo of yourself and your mind goes into that pit of self hating think about everything you have accomplished, everything your body can do for you. Think about what that avid outdoors man or woman should look like and realize you are exactly who you should be; then go climb a mountain and scream it from the top just in case you need to prove it to yourself.