Friday, October 27, 2006

Beauty and strength

Beauty and Strength

I, for a long time have struggled with the “beauty” ideal. What red blooded American woman hasn’t? In fact, what global woman hasn’t? According; to recent studies, not many woman have avoided the “struggle”.

2005 Dove Global Study
_. A comprehensive 10-country research that surveyed 3,300 girls and women between the ages of 15 and 64 in Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom and the United States of America._
_. Commissioned by Dove to explore self-esteem and the impact of beauty ideals on both women’s and girls’ lives.

The findings speak for themselves...
_. 90% of all women 15-64 worldwide want to change at least one aspect of their physical appearance (with body weight ranking the highest)._
_. 67% of all women 15 to 64 withdraw from life-engaging activities due to feeling badly about their looks (among them things like giving an opinion, going to school, going to the doctor)._
_. 61% of all women and 69% of girls (15 to 17) feel that their mother has had a positive influence on their feelings about themselves and their beauty.
You can help change this.
We encourage you to read the entire report and share its findings with other women and young girls in your life.
And yet, what I found through triathlon, marathon and ultimately Ironman, is that doing incredible things seems to temper that feeling of doubt and fear and hopelessness. It is replaced with strength and reassurance and hope. I recently watched the Ironman World championships. A self-professed professional triathlete groupie (I cant find another word to describe the respect and amazement I feel for the women who go before me on that path other than groupie), I was taken aback by one simple fact. These women looked more beautiful after crossing the finish line of this 141-mile race than they did at the start line. Ok so lets be clear, the start line is at 4 a.m. I am not sure even God looks good at 4 a.m. However, these women were glowing at the finish line some 9 hours later. Now having done a few of these and knowing how these women accomplish this race, I can speak from experience. They are not out there “do dahing” – they are balls to the wall racing. And yet, they come across the finish line looking as if they had just had facials and massages at the spa. They were glowing. In fact, watching one of my team mates come across some time after the professionals (and just viewing her pre-race pictures), she had the same look about her. Now I know that Hawaii is a pretty spectacular place. And I know that these women did not stop off at the nearest spa to get quick facials before finishing. And I know that finishing an Ironman is as close to Labor as anything I have found. I have done both several times over. So there must be something else going on here. Could it be the willingness to take on something greater than themselves or at least that greatness that has something to do with beauty? Could it be that moving at the very best of ones ability just for the fun of it has something to do with beauty? Could it be that looking at food as fuel and eating what one needs to do something great has something to do with beauty. Not one of the women had the “Hollywood” standard of beauty. Certainly, most were thin, but few had the overly enlarged lips and breast that we see on television, movies and magazines. Not all of them had incredibly long legs (except Michelle Jones who won). To be sure, all of them were incredibly beautiful and worthy of any catwalk and camera. Having crossed a few finish lines and walked a few catwalks; no catwalk compares to an Ironman Finish line!

So while I recover from back surgery, I have lots of time to remember how important it is to do things bigger than myself. How moving for the fun of it makes me more beautiful than any needle, scapula or diet. That when I get my hair done, look at the next fashion trend and get my nails done, it is not to make me more beautiful, it is to do one more thing for myself that I enjoy. It is to celebrate the beauty that exists because on the road and in the water, I have met that beautiful person. I have experienced my beauty, my strength and my hope.

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