I read the comments. Don’t think I don’t. No, not the ones that say that women shouldn’t have muscles, or that abs on a woman are gross. I’ve long since learned to ignore those. To be honest, I look forward to those sorts of comments now. Those are the easy ones to handle. No, what I’m referring to are the comments about my face, my lips, my cheeks — my everything. Well, not everything: people seem to like my eyes. They’re the comments that call into question who I am as a person because of how I look.
When I first started hosting BodyRock I was 31 years old. I had a rocking body (I thought) and I was strong and fast, and although I never expected to be leading workouts for millions of people a week on the BodyRock YouTube Channel, I took on that role with all the tenacity and heart I could muster. Admittedly, I was stepping into some pretty big shoes and the only photos I had ever taken were of my sister and I on vacation. The YouTube comments let me know that my body was too skinny, too gangly, too flat in places it should have been round, too boyish: too, too, too.
I expected that kind of reaction; after all, the lads at my gym in the UK would offer those kinds of jibes up on the bounce (all in good nature, and only after I would out-rep them in almost everything). What I hadn’t prepared for was being told I’m ugly. I know that everyone has been labeled ugly at one time or another --- even if it was just on the playground by some childhood nemesis. But imagine being told that you are ugly on a networked, amplified globally industrial scale. That’s what happened to me when I took over as the BodyRock trainer. When you are reaching tens of millions of people, not everyone is going to be nice. Like I said, I was expecting criticism.
But it wasn’t all bad. For every mean comment, there were dozens of positive ones. There was always a kind BodyRocker that would jump in to defend me. But the exchange rate in psychic energy never seemed to come out in my favour and it didn’t take long for my self-confidence to wither. And the funny thing is, I didn’t even realize it was happening. It’s like one day I just woke up and started doubting myself. Not my fitness: I was in the best shape of my life. I doubted my beauty.
I started to look for things to change in the mirror. I had never considered surgery — never — not even when my closest friends would lovingly tease that my nose looked like a parsnip after I’d just roasted them with a particularly clever burn. But now, I was surveying the contours of my face for things to change, inflate, or chisel away. I started to believe that if I could just change this or that, I wouldn’t be branded as ugly.
There. I admit it.
After a while, I started to believe the comments. I wish I could say I was stronger, or that I resisted it, or that the sense of self and independence that my parents so lovingly helped instill inside me had served as a better shield. In the end, I chose to start tweaking and inflating and bit by bit, year by year, I changed. Of course, the way I looked also changed because I was just getting older, too, but overall, I felt I let myself down. Trainers and coaches aren’t supposed to be weak.
It took me a long time to realize that I wasn’t so much chasing an illusion of perfection; rather, I was warding off a fear of judgement. I had lost my belief in myself, and I had allowed in the negativity that was heaped on me. I’m not against people making changes. Quite frankly, it’s none of my business what anyone chooses to do with their body.
Would I do it again? Some of it, sure.
Would I choose to do it in reaction to pressures from strangers calling me ugly? Never.
I’ve re-learned that confidence comes entirely from within. The changes that I’m focused on making nowadays are around my training, my diet and working on my confidence and self awareness. I’m coming to a greater peace with myself as I approach 10 years of doing this job. It’s a journey, and one I look forward to everyday. In large part, it’s because I have so many amazing people training with me.
To every single person who’s supported me or defended me, I want to thank you, from the bottom of my heart. Even to the people who just had the good grace to keep unproductive criticism to themselves, I want to thank you for showing that discretion.
We have built an incredible community here, and I’m proud of it. I’m proud of each and every one of you who shows up every day with guts, determination and a no-holds barred positive attitude. I couldn’t keep doing what I do without you.
If you feel like you need some of this support and love from a community of like-minded people, know that we’re here for you. We have a safe space — the BodyRock Insider’s Group. If you haven’t already, you should really join the group now. It’s a place where BodyRockers come together to get bolstered up when they’re feeling down, and talk shop about everything fitness, nutrition and living our best, beautiful lives.
And I am trying to live my best, beautiful life. I believe this, no matter what anyone says.