I was having a conversation the other day about people’s genetic potential and how different people are according to their genetic strengths and weaknesses. This is something I’ve thought a lot about because it’s something I’ve struggled with over the years. My genetics don’t necessarily lend itself to a body type/look that I had wished that I had, and for a long time, I struggled to attain that body type. Spoiler alert: I never attained it. And I was always disappointed with myself for not achieving it. But, as I’ve gotten older and more experienced, I’ve seen the same pattern with many people expressing that they wished that they looked like me. And some of these people saying this actually had the body type that I wished for! Weird, right? So what’s the conclusion? Why are so many people so hell bent on looking a way that is opposite of what they are? I think he answer is complicated and absolutely varies from person to person, but here are my theories. I think “the grass is always greener principle comes in to play in major way. I also think that society preys on our insecurities in order to profit from our drive to be excellent or feel wanted. We want to emulate what we admire, because we wish to be admired also. But the reality is, is that we are all so different that it would be a shame to squander what we are gifted with in search of possessing what someone else was gifted with.
There are countless strengths and weaknesses in a person’s makeup. Personality traits, intellectual strengths, creativity, work ethic, drive, and coping mechanisms all significantly shape a person’s overall strengths and weaknesses. My experience lies more with physical strengths weaknesses, so I will stay in my lane and explore what I know more about. Correct action can take you places and lead you to progress, but simply wishing things were different, especially wishing your genetic makeup was different, is a waste of your precious energy and life. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. And yes, that even includes those genetic freaks you see that are perfectly suited for their sport. I guarantee that they have weaknesses, but theirs might just not be physical. So I think it’s incredibly important to take stock of your strong suites. Now, because I’m a trainer and this is a blog about health and wellness, I’m going to focus on the physical side of these genetic strengths and weaknesses.
We have all heard the saying “the grass is always greener on the other side”, right? I think that this is a common reason that people are not happy with the genetics that they have been gifted with. It’s that same principle that even leaves us wishing we had the same material possessions or relationships that the person next to us has. It’s easy to idealize something we don’t have because we don’t know all the pros and cons associated with with that thing we are idolizing. It’s easy to look at things we don’t have through rose colored glasses and ignore all the complications and challenges that come packaged with it. And that can apply to more than just body type or genetics. That can apply to relationships, careers, children, material items, etc… It’s easy to wish for it because we don’t fully understand the challenges and downsides to having what they have. In my personal experience, I have had women tell me that they wish that they had my legs. It takes effort for me to not tell them that the only reason that I have the body that I do is because I live with some nasty depression and one of my primary ways to manage it is to train hard to manufacture serotonin and dopamine for my brain to stay somewhat stable. They see the end result of that training, but they don’t see or feel the mental/emotional work I have to put in to stay sane for my family and job. So hey, you can take my legs, but you”ll have to take my depression along with them in order to maintain them! But that same thing can apply to any athlete we admire, can’t it? It’s difficult to see the process through which they have attained the skill or strength or body that they have. Some people work and struggle and sacrifice for years to be able to look or perform at a certain level. When we see a great athlete smiling on a podium, all we see is the end result. We see the fruits of their labor, not their years of labor that lead them to that destination.
I believe that part of this wishing that we do is because we look up to our role models. We find people we admire because it helps us define or goals and gives a direction to our motivation. We want to emulate what we admire because we also want to be admired. Now, using people and defining goals is absolutely helpful. Without being specific about our goals and what we want in life, we would wander aimlessly and it would be next to impossible to accomplish the things we want. But there is a thin line between using an athlete or some other figure as a tool to define your own goals, and idolizing them to the point where you neglect to see your own magic. Because everyone has their own magic. I’ve seen some people run so effortlessly and easily that it makes me feel like a hippo racing gazelles. I’ve seen some people flow like water through yoga poses that would make me collapse like a crushed pretzel. And don’t even get me started on dancers. I’ve worked in gyms for fifteen years and not once have I ever done a zumba class. No way. Give me a barbell and I’ll be fine. But there are so many people who breeze through those things because they found their magic. They found their strengths and their happy place, and they pursue it! Their strengths look completely different than mine, and that’s beautiful. Now, that’s not say that I shouldn’t ever work on my weaknesses or never try new things. I may discover that I have more magic in me than I thought! So exploring everything is important!
With the revolution of social media and constant connectivity, I think a lot of people fall victim to that “wishing” because of targeted marketing. It’s not secret that facebook and google sell every bit of your data to companies worldwide that use it to tailor advertisements and recommendations to you personally. If you put on your facebook that you are engaged, advertisements for wedding dresses and venues will absolutely start popping up all over your phone. Even if you talk about certain topics with your phone nearby, google and youtube will listen in and use that information to tailor advertisements for you. If you don’t believe that, I encourage you to experiment with it. You’ll notice it immediately. If these companies do that with just mundane information, you can bet they do it with your health and body image as well. On TV, in social media, and every advertisement, we see images of beautiful people who have nice bodies. We are conditioned from childhood to see that as being normal even though most of it is altered and photo-shopped. And when we see that we don’t live up to their so-called normal standards we are inundated with, we are given advertisements for products and services that will fix us. We live in a society of corporations that manipulate us into having insecurities and then sell us cures for the disease that they created in your mind. It’s a huge business and unplugging from it completely is as difficult as living without internet these days. Being aware of what the media is doing and how it is trying to manipulate you into being a consumer for these things is the first step. Limiting your exposure really helps. But I understand all too well that avoiding all exposure is impossible if you plan on functioning in society with other people. I don’t plan on being a hermit in the near future, so all I can do is take everything I am fed through social media and other forms of media with a grain of salt. I ask myself this question, “Who benefits from me believing this or thinking this way?” If the answer to that question is anyone besides me and the people I care about, it usually means that a corporation will benefit from it.
I understand that this all may seem a little paranoid or you may think that I go around wearing a tin foil hat. But I challenge you to start challenging the ideas that you are exposed to on a daily basis. Is it actually healthy to give 100% of your energy to a workout every day? Is it really a good idea to chase your fitness goals at all costs, even if that cost includes your loved ones? Is it really beneficial to your life to beat yourself up for missing the gym because you were recovering from a panic attack? There is a balance between chasing your goals and what you have determined you want for your body and living your best life. You have different strengths than the person standing next to you. It would be a disservice to you both to compare your strengths and weaknesses and to each of you to reach the same goal the same way. So we must approach it with a balance. We must pursue our strengths with gratitude and be mindful of our weaknesses.
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