I lament this ubiquitous theme in fitness of style over substance. If image really was nothing, our whole language around fitness would be different. Oftentimes we love to romanticize ages gone by when whatever blah-blah was different; I like to imagine a fanciful time when people moved simply to enjoy their bodies in motion, to express their pure emotions, and if they trained it was not to pander to prejudiced and narrow-minded ideals, but to develop skills and become really good at a thing – something greater than vanity. Something else. Or maybe the point is just to be able to have fun, playing and learning at the gym, with joy and curiosity, with no judgement, no emasculation or homophobia, no misogyny, no condescending encouragement, no assumptions. It’s important to me because I’ve felt trapped and powerless before, and I don’t want that again.
People talk about aesthetics as if they’re worthwhile, and beauty is this thing that we can aspire to, but if it’s prejudiced and narrow-minded, how can it be an ideal? It isn’t ‘perfection’ to chase after, to work for this thing that plays people off against each other, that resolves to keep us insecure and competitive and for what? The dubious pleasure of being able to cling to an ephemeral, transient thing – beauty – this modern idea of it – true beauty is not this. And we know it. But we fall for it again and again. We remain afraid. And the people who have it – who enjoys it? Most don’t even realise they have arrived, and if they do, they live only in fear of loss – because it is so fragile, so vulnerable, it can all come crashing down in an instant.
What is timeless? What is worthwhile? What is the beauty that endures? Character. It’s the thing about you that you cannot change, the thing that you always wished had been different. That is the heart of beauty. Embrace it. Learn to perceive it in yourself, and the whole world becomes more beautiful to your eyes.
It sounds schmaltzy, but it’s true. The thing that makes you shine – it’s not what you think it is. There is no such thing as standardised beauty, because that exists without character. It’s not ‘imperfection’ that makes you pretty. It’s your character. The things about you that are real, that you cannot hide, as much as you might wish to.