I’ll never forget the moment a hitting coach suggested that I “do it like Manny.” I was never Manny Ramirez, nor would I ever have that level of hitting talent. Trying to emulate him was not an efficient use of my time. I was much better served finding the best version of my own stroke. Additionally, comparing my offensive prowess to the best right-handed hitter of a generation was an act destined to make me feel inadequate. Chyna Bardarson is building her brand as an on air personality with a focus on sports, fitness, wellness and nutrition. As such, she has the daunting challenge of being compared to the established women in her industry. She’s ready. Her mind is strong. She’s been tested. I’ll let her tell you.
“Comparison is the thief of Joy.”
No quote inspires me more than this one.I’ve always been interested in and passionate about health and fitness. I may only be in my twenties, but I feel like I’ve learned so much about these goals. Growing up steeped in technology and then developing a career during the social media age, I have really observed and understood what drives people to improve their health and fitness. Unfortunately, most of those motivations come from comparing themselves to others. Analyzing why so many people struggle with maintaining proper health is a fairly simple exercise – they are exhausted from struggling to measure up to some external ideal.
The media splashes dozens of fad diets and workout trends across the airwaves and magazine covers within a year – scratch that, within a month. You could be pulled in several different directions when trying to follow what society tells deems as best for you at the time. Social media, when used improperly, floods your newsfeed with everyone’s perfectly edited and impeccably lighted photos of beach bodies.
During my college years, I experienced the freedom to become whoever I wanted to be. This also meant that I had the freedom to become whoever society wanted me to be instead. The trend at the time was baggy sweaters and leggings. The outfits looked cute on the models, but my athletic build didn’t look as good in those darn leggings. I was almost certainly stronger and healthier than those models, but I could only look in the mirror and see that I wasn’t good enough.
I felt the pressure to chase those trends. I ate a little less, ran a little more. I got to the point where those clothes fit the same on me. I only had to sacrifice 20 lbs. of healthy muscle, my endurance and my integrity. I gained even more insecurities. I didn’t like myself any more, not one bit. I was weak, mentally and physically. Shopping for clothes was even worse than before. Instead of draping my curves, they hung off of me. I guess the grass is always greener on the other side. I would have done anything to get my old body back. Angry at myself for giving in to society’s lies, I worked hard on gaining the weight back in a healthy matter.
Experience is the greatest teacher, and boy did I learn my lesson. I thought being able to wear the latest fashion, forcing myself into the box society was shoving at me, would make me happy; all it did was make me unhealthy and miserable. Now, I am passionate about helping other people release their fears and negativity.
It all begins with these few simple questions: What is beauty and who has it? Where does our standard of beauty come from? Who gets the final say? Not only is it difficult to answer these questions, but quite frankly, it is impossible to begin to narrow down the answer. Is it even possible to determine something as “objectively beautiful” when the values of beauty are constantly shifting?
There is nothing wrong with showing off the hard work it takes to get those perfect bikini bodies or well-defined six pack. For the people in a vulnerable position seeing those pictures, however, it can be less than inspiring. Ever feel like an outcast for not looking the same way, for not following the same diet as others, for not training with the same workout plan as others? We live in a society where we are assaulted daily with unrealistic standards of beauty, trying to stay confident through constant attacks on our self-image. Why are we so focused on vanity rather than so many other positive attributes that health and fitness can bring someone?
This is where the problem originates. Rather than choosing to focus on what works best for our body, we focus on what our celebrity idols eat, sleep and breathe to achieve their bodies. Tips and advice can be extremely helpful, but it’s simply that, advice. Often, those same celebrities achieve the magazine covers through crash diets, dangerous drugs, plastic surgery and the biggest shortcut of them all – Photoshop. Ultimately, I have learned that my body is in its best shape and my health is at its prime when I simplify my thoughts. I do not focus on what others do. I focus on what makes me feel good rather than what society endorsed diets force down my throat. However, I realize it is not always that easy to block out what the media is screaming at your insecurities.
Everyone is searching for love and acceptance. It would be nice if our media used their position in society to inspire our best selves, but that doesn’t bring in the advertising dollars the way pushing make up, beauty products and diet pills does. Unfortunately, we’re on our own. But there are some things you can do.
Before paving your personal fitness journey, ask yourself a few questions. What am I looking to get out of my workouts? Is it solely vanity and self-image based? Are you searching for improved strength, coordination, self-confidence and overall well-being? These questions are important because success has a different definition for each individual. If you first define what your success is, you will have a much better chance of achieving it.
It is very liberating to let go of the expectations of others, to create your own path and to rewire your motives in your health and fitness journey. Both your body and your mind will thank you for it. Life becomes simple again and passion is reawakened. I leave you with this; do not limit your fitness workouts and your eating habits to what others tell you. You are in your own lane on the track. Trust me, you won’t finish the race any quicker by always checking over your shoulder to see how the others are doing. In fact, this will only slow you down or throw you off course. Find your success by discovering what you love, discovering what is effective and doing it. Being yourself when the world is trying to make you into someone else is one of the greatest accomplishments you can achieve.