January 27, 2012

It’s the beginning of the new year, and everyone’s making resolutions. My cousin takes issue at the goal of “looking good in a bikini”. She writes:

Exercise goals shouldn’t be about superficial results. They should be about doing something for yourself. Exercise to have more energy during the day. Exercise to keep your body fit and healthy. Exercise to keep your mind sharp.  Exercise to be stronger and faster.

There’s a lot that I agree with. Yes, there’s unnecessary emphasis placed on women’s looks. Yes,  women’s health magazines wrap exercise into the “look better” packaging when that’s the only goal. Yes, your goals should be about you and not other people. However, as long as there’s not an unhealthy push – no obsessive exercising, no unrealistic end goal, no unsustainable lifestyle – I think any motivation to exercise is good.

Maybe it’s because I’m the kind of person who makes a goal to “look good in a bikini.* Or maybe it’s because the other reasons Erica points out about exercise don’t resonate with me. Not being an athlete, it’s not terribly important to me to be stronger, faster, fitter, or more energetic. I don’t even have a strong sense of urgency to be healthier. So if I’m motivated because I think I can look better, or maybe I’m just preemptively fighting off extra beers and cheese and snacks, I’ll take it. The Jezebel article points out ‘Your body isn’t a passive painting or a photograph, your body is a tool”. Well, just because I have a hammer doesn’t mean I have to build a house.

At the same time, I think looking good is about yourself. Making that a new year’s resolution is, to me, the same as making the goal not to wear pajamas outside the house. Or brush your hair before you walk out the door. Or don’t let your underwear show when it shouldn’t. Because I judge everyone I see – this is partially for other people. But it’s also because I know I can present myself well, and if I don’t, I’m just being lazy. It’s putting your best foot forward because you can.** It’s just articulated in a way that makes sense for people who aren’t training or athletes or at an unhealthy weight.

*that’s really a lie. I’ve never made this goal because I think I look ok in a bikini. But if I didn’t, changing that would definitely be on my to-do list.

Side note: while writing this, I started to think why it is that making a goal to look good in a swimsuit is seen as superficial but training for a marathon is not. Why is it that being able to run a really far distance (when, let’s be honest, who needs to run in their every day lives?) is seen as a big accomplishment? But spending the time every single day put together outfits and do make up and stay toned – essentially to look better than most other people – isn’t?


One comment

  1. It’s the same reason why wasting your time watching tv all day is looked at as better than wasting your time playing video games. Perception is a weird thing.

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