The power of words can never be underestimated especially with something as subjective as body image.
"What is your definition of beauty?"
The answer to that question varies for many different people.
My strongman coach Brian Alsruhe put out this video on his YouTube channel showcasing what the phrase "suffer beautifully" means to him. It's the mantra of his gym Neversate Athletics in Westminster.
The phrase itself drives the message forward that we all suffer. One person's trials and tribulations are no greater or worse than another's.
Yet one thing I've encountered inside the strength community and from outsiders who aren't involved in the competitive ring is this issue of physical body image.
As a man, this isn't an issue I encounter as often as women who compete in strength sports.
"You have too much muscle."
"Guys won't like you."
"That's not attractive."
These are just few of the phrases some of my female friends in the community told me they've encountered on a regular basis. They experience this language around friends, family, peers and even pure strangers.
While I understand having more muscle than normal isn't everyone's cup of tea, there's a special kind of appreciation that can be tied to a built physique.
Not all women, even those with more muscle than an average woman, want to be extremely muscular. It's the body they have worked for, the body they maintain and the body they were given to embrace.
It's also hard for women and men to avoid playing the comparison game after a simple scroll of social media tells us what abs, biceps and backside we need to have in order to be deemed "beautiful."
This is even more prevalent in a generation of swiping left and right. Men and women involved in the online dating scene look at one selfie or picture and make a judgment. One of my friends even revealed to me a man messaging her obsessed over her body being more muscular.
There's doing anything it takes to win and focusing on an idealistic approach to a look that personifies physical strength.
But why is an average Joe with an average build sometimes looked down upon for being strong?
Why does bodyweight matter?
When did we become a society so focused on image that we forgot how to talk to people?
Even after meeting that person, why do we find ourselves breaking them down for their faults instead of rising them up with encouragement?
During my lifting journey, my views have certainly changed. I shifted my focus from what I deemed acceptable in the mirror to accepting what is there already.
We need to get back to that in and out of the strength community.
If you like the way your body is, be proud. If you don't like the way you look or feel, embrace it and make the change. If you see somebody who has a different body type than you, even if it isn't your desired body type, if they're happy with it let them be.
We all are fighting battles inside that only those closest with us know. Insecurities that play out in our minds every single day.
The "ideal body" is a mold unique to each individual on earth. Just like a person's character.
Both physical and mental strength are beautiful. Character and integrity are beautiful.
Our bodies and minds are masterpieces always under construction as our respective canvas continues to be filled with experiences.