I’m sure you’ve heard about the fitness enthusiast mom from California who posted a photo to her website and Facebook page that features her decked out in tiny exercise duds, showing off her incredibly toned body. She’s posing with her three young children, and the tagline reads, “What’s Your Excuse?”
The photo has gone viral in the last couple of weeks, with more than 20 million views and prompting more than 30,000 comments – and resulting in some pretty heated online conversations.
Although Maria Kang has received many cheers and words of support for her dedication to her health, it’s the negative comments calling her a bully and accusing her of “fat shaming” that are making news.
Initially when I read the damning comments, I began to lash out and judge those writing in, but then realized, I was judging them for judging. Well, that’s just hypocritical. So I sat with my thoughts and feelings about it, especially given my health journey over the last year, and can now see both sides of this “controversy”.
Had I seen this photo more than a year ago, I may have had a defensive reaction, too, because I wasn’t making my health a priority, and I wouldn’t have liked the mirror Maria was holding up for me. I may have judged her as narcissistic and made excuses for why she can make her health a priority but I can’t.
Now, 12 months into my health and fitness journey, I read the message in the photo as a “Come to Jesus” moment. This woman has three young children and still finds time to make her health a priority. Rock on, sister!
Why are we so quick to discount her success? And to discount it immediately without learning her full story (that includes, by the way, a history with bulimia, owning two business, running a non-profit offering FREE exercise classes for moms, growing up with a mother who was very sick due to her eating and lack-of-exercise habits, etc, etc).
A quick, charged reaction to anything is a sign that something more is going on there for you, and it most likely has nothing to do with the person or situation to which you’re reacting. Take this comment, for example:
“You are part of the body shaming problem that is going on in North America and other parts of the world.”
I completely agree that there is a body-shaming problem in the world, however, no one can make you feel shame but you. In fact, no one can make you feel anything without your permission. It is we, ourselves, who are shaming our own bodies, and therefore are easily affected by magazine covers and others’ comments, and are quick to read into messages through our personal lenses.
Or this comment: “You are a bully with a super inflated sense of your own self.”
There’s a good chance that Maria’s photo is a mirror for this commenter, forcing her to face the truth of her deflated sense of self.
Then came the “kids” excuses:
“Yeah, maybe if I could afford a personal trainer and a nanny, I could have a body like that, but as it is I’m still doughy because I, you know, spend time with my children instead of in a gym.”
By giving all the credit of Maria’s success to a personal trainer and nanny (both of whom don’t exist, by the way) and to a presumed neglect of her children, this commenter is allowing herself to not take ownership for her own life, whether in relation to exercise and health, or elsewhere.
“Those precious little things [her kids] need their mommy more than they need you to have glamour muscles.”
“How dare you shame mothers who have given up and made huge sacrifices for their kids, for not “looking right” to you? How dare you be cruel to women who have gone through everything for their babies?”
This is an area where mothers can easily give themselves a pass for not taking good care of themselves, emotionally or physically. “Well, my kids…” Yes, your kids – they need you to be healthy. They need you to be happy. They need you to take care of yourself. Show them the life you want for them by living it yourself. Martyrdom does not rear healthy, happy children.
If you say you want to make a change, but then don’t do anything to make that happen, then you’re making excuses. Believe me. I did for a long time, and sometimes, still do. What’s important is to dig underneath the excuses to see what the real resistance is about. What is the payout to not making the change you say you want to make?
My payouts a year ago included:
- Being able to stuff down and ignore difficult emotions
- Feeling safer with my suit of armor protecting my vulnerability (or so I thought)
- Not having to give up my comfort foods
- Not having to look at the sources of what was really going on
- Being able to stay in denial about my health
- And so on…
Do you see how it’s our own limiting beliefs that cause us to overreact most times?
Maria is also getting shit for “bragging” and “flaunting”. I say, brag away, girl! If you’re uncomfortable with her “bragging,” then the issue points to a belief you hold about bragging. There’s a good chance you were taught to not boast and brag (many of us were), but we take that to a point of never acknowledging ourselves for our accomplishments. I don’t believe Maria posted that photo to get accolades from others. Her willingness to post it speaks to a level of self-acknowledgement and pride that many of us don’t allow ourselves to express or even feel.
When we see others who have something we want and we discount them for it, we’re essentially telling the universe to please not bestow the same fortune onto us. By judging others, we are limiting our own possibilities. Instead, celebrate others’ accomplishments – genuinely – and you’ll feel a whole lot better about yourself, and you’ll welcome in your own successes.
Please join this important conversation! What was your reaction to this photo? Good, bad, or indifferent – no judgment here. What do you think your reaction says about you and where you’re at on your spiritual journey? What beliefs do you hold that impact your reaction to the photo? Share in the comments section below.